The Atlantic salmon is a large (up to about 1m in length), stream-lined, silver fish, with numerous small black spots. The Ontario population (freshwater) is generally smaller and darker than those that go to sea. It is a powerful fish - among the greatest fighters in the fishing world - and is often referred as “the king of fishes”.
Freshwater (non-migratory or non-anadromous) Atlantic Salmon occur in Europe, Scandinavia and North America. In Canada, populations are present in the Atlantic region in lakes in Newfoundland, Labrador and Quebec. About 40 tributaries of Lake Ontario were also known to support runs of Atlantic Salmon. This population was isolated from the other Great Lakes upstream by Niagara Falls. The colonization of Upper Canada led to the extirpation of the Lake Ontario population of Atlantic Salmon before 1900. Stocking efforts using non-native stocks have had limited success and self-sustaining populations have not yet been established. However, stocking in Trout Lake Ontario has resulted in a naturally reproducing population.
The atlantic salmon is a cold-water species and like most migratory fishes, it has a different habitat for each stage of its life history. Marine atlantic salmon return from the sea to freshwater streams to spawn. Landlocked or permanently freshwater salmon move from the lake to tributary streams to spawn and then return to the lake. In Canada, atlantic salmon spawn in October and November, depending on the region. During their upstream migration, they have the ability to surmount obstacles to reach the spawning grounds. The spawning site is usually a gravel-bottom riffle area above or below a pool.
Conservation Status in Ontario
Extirpated Provincially and Nationally.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, together with a number of partner organizations, are working to restore Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario and its tributaries.
Salmon is one of the most important fish groups in aquaculture. Atlantic Salmon are often considered to be an indicator species.