The life of wild salmon begins and ends in the same place – freshwater habitat. They hatch from eggs deposited, or spawned, in mountain streams, sometimes hundreds of miles from the ocean. The eggs incubate in gravel spawning beds, called redds, while clean, cold water delivers oxygen and washes away waste. After hatching, salmon rear in quiet pools, where shading vegetation moderates water temperature, provides streambank stability, and gives protection from predators.
Young salmon, or smolts, migrate from the rearing areas at about one year of age. They instinctively follow the creeks and rivers downstream during spring runoff Adult female and eventually reach the Pacific Ocean. As they travel, a physiological change occurs. This process, called smoltification, enables the young salmon to make the transition from fresh water to salt water.
Salmon spend most of their adult lives in the ocean, ranging along the Pacific coast from Monterey, California, north to the Aleutian Islands. After maturing, they migrate back home to spawn in the same rivers and streams where they were born.
The female, upon reaching the creek where she was hatched, digs a red. Then, side-by-side, the male and female discharge sperm and eggs which settle into the prepared gravel. After the eggs are released and fertilized, the adult salmon die. The life cycle is complete.