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It is obvious that the salmon, with its slim, streamlined body, is built for speed. This is confirmed by its long, leaping and powerful struggle when captured. Like most salmon, the Atlantic salmon is between 40 and 50 inches long and some have even been caught that are as much as 60 inches long. This fish has a silver underside and back with flanks that are verging on green and the back is covered with black spots. It comes from one of the Salmonidae family which consist of only five genera and around twenty four species including the rainbow trout.
The atlantic salmon feeds in the sea and breeds in fresh water. This type of behavior is called anadromous which is Greek for running upwards. Opinions are mixed as to whether this species was originally marine and took to migrating into rivers to spawn or was a fresh water fish that has taken to going down to the sea to feed. Most of the evidence that has been collected favors the former opinion. In the majority of the salmon species knowledge concerning their habits has been mostly studied in fresh water. Recent results from tagging experiments show that this fish may travel up to a thousand miles or more from the rivers mouth where they enter the sea, although the majority travel around one hundred miles. This is done in so that each salmon can return to spawn in the same river in which it was hatched.
Although it is believed that the Atlantic salmon can make these long trips home because they are guided by currents, or that the fish smells or taste the water from its parental river and that it uses a celestial navigation to guide it these theories are just speculation. The actual reason for this spawning frenzy is still unknown. It is known that when this salmon enters its ancestral river it has the urge to go upstream no matter what the obstacles. Thus it can be seen leaping from water falls and such. In areas where the river is dammed fish ladders have been built in the form of various steps. Atlantic salmon are seen jumping up these steps in all seasons. During their stay in the sea the Atlantic salmon stays at a moderate depth. It is believed they come close to the surface at night following the plankton on its daily migration upward.
The Atlantic salmon feeds on various shrimp like crustaceans and from these it derives the pink color in its flesh. It will also prey on sand eels, small herring and other fish. When this fish is in fresh water no regular feeding takes place and the salmon draws on its reserve food store of fat. The life cycle of this fish begins in the shallows of a stream of clean water. The females dig a trough by using a lashing movement and lays between 800 to 900 eggs for every pound of the weight. They are fertilized by the male and the female covers them with gravel. Then both fish move up stream to repeat the process. Many birds, eels, perch, pike and trout prey on the eggs but when the fry hatches they leave for shallow water when between 1 and 2 inches long. When they reach approximately 8 inches they return to the sea where they feed for one to six years before returning to spawn. Adult Atlantic salmon are prey for otters, seals, porpoises, cormorants and some larger predatory fish.