Home Fishing Know the Difference: Salmon and Brown Trout

Know the Difference: Salmon and Brown Trout

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Migratory and landlocked Atlantic salmon juveniles and adults can be difficult to distinguish from brown trout. There are size and bag limit restrictions that differ for these two species; therefore, it is important to know how to identify them properly.

Young Salmon & Brown Trout

Here’s what you need to know:

Set young salmon free! Study these pictures and note the points of difference between young salmon and brown trout. If you catch a salmon parr or smolt, remove the hook gently and place the fish back in the water to grow up.

Atlantic Salmon Parr

Similar markings to a brown trout.

Salmon Parr F.psd

  • Jawline extends to midpoint of eye
  • No Spots on dorsal fin
  • Adipose fin not tinged with red (greyish)
  • Very forked tail

 

Brown Trout Parr

A colorful fish with red and black dots along its sides and very similar in appearance to salmon parr.

Salmon Parr F.psd

  • Jawline extends to posterior of eye
  • Spots usually evident on dorsal fin
  • Adipose fin tinged with red
  • Tail more rounded, less forked

 

Salmon Smolt

Almost totally silver. Generally lacks the vertical sidebars of the salmon parr or brown trout.

Smolt F.psd

  • Jaw extends to midpoint of eye
  • Black spots on upper sides and cheeks
  • Vey Forked tail.

Adult Salmon & Brown Trout

Here’s what you need to know:

The more obvious differences between adult salmon and brown trout may be found in the head and tail areas. Knowing them may help the angler release a fish more quickly. When in doubt about identifying adult salmon and brown trout, play it safe and release the fish unharmed.

 

Atlantic Salmon F.psd SalmonMouth.tif
  • Caudal fin may be slightly forked
  • Caudal peduncle is narrow and tapered
  • dipose fin is grey to olive—never orange
  • Maxillary usually extends to rear edge of eye or slightly beyond
  • Vomerine teeth

    Small and arranged in a single row along a raised shaft on the roof of the mouth.

Brown Trout F.psd BrnTroutMouth.tif
  • Caudal fin is square and unforked
  • Caudal peduncle is thick and stocky
  • Adipose fin may be fringed or spotted with orange or red
  • Maxillary usually extends well past rear edge of eye
  • Vomerine teeth

    Well developed and arranged in zig-zag rows along a raised shaft on the roof of the mouth.

Photo (top): Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club

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