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Pacific salmonid life cycle

Release date: November 2023
Infographic: Pacific salmonid life cycle
Description: Pacific salmonid life cycle

Eggs and alevin

Under the gravel, embryos develop within the eggs. They hatch as alevin, with an attached yolk sac for food.

Illustration: Eggs and alevin


In the stream, fry emerge from the gravel and swim in search of tiny aquatic insects and other food.

Illustration: Coho fry


Migrating to estuaries, silvery smolts begin their adaptation to salt water.

Illustration: Chinook smolts


In the ocean, adults travel thousands of miles, feeding and growing before returning to their stream of origin.

Illustrations: Steelhead trout, Chum salmon, Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, Sockeye salmon, Pink salmon


Swimming upstream, salmonids fight past rapids and waterfalls. Spawning colours appear; males develop hooked jaws, sharp canine teeth and in some species humped backs.

Illustrations: Chinook migrating, Sockeye males fighting


In gravel nests, females lay thousands of eggs that are fertilized with milt from males. Their life cycle complete, salmonids die soon after spawning.

Illustrations: Sockeye pair spawning, Chum female digging redd

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