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Best ID of Atlantic Salmon

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I can't imagine everyone waits until they are in the boat counting anal fins. What's the best way to ID an Atlantic. I've not caught too many, so its tougher when you don't have your hands on them.

More importantly the best ways to not confuse it with other species (coho)

Can someone help? I've printed ID charts, but I've pulled fish up that don't look anything like the ID chart says it should. They are pretty generic.


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Try this -- The skin of a brown trout on a coho's body. There should not be much confusion with coho, there may be some between a small brown and atlantic. The tail and head are the dead give-a-way. With all the football browns in the lake there really has not been many browns that look like them either. If you are not sure and the fish is under 25 inches, just throw it back.


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they most closely resemble brown trout (not so much coho), but there are some pretty noticable differences if you know what to look for.

The mouth of a brown trout will extend a fair amount past the back of the eye, on an atlantic it pretty much stops at the back of the eye, the mouth/snout of an atlantic will also be skinnier or more pointed, the mouth of a brown is blunter.

the spots on an atlantic will be smaller, sparser and kind if have an X look to them

The tail of an atlantic will have a definite fork to it, a brown's tail will be pretty flat across the back edge.

I'll see if I can find some pics of each on here and post em together and point out the differences.


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Great Pics,

Thanks for the info guys. The small mouth and the forked tail with no spots seem to be the best indicators. I'm just not seasoned enough to call it while its being reeled in like the veterans can.

We normally toss back all but kings anyway, but the pro am sheds new light on Id'ing fish. Assuming the observer can tell the difference between an Atlantic and all other species, technically, penalties can given for mis id'ing a fish, which I think is fine. If were going to fish, we should know what the hell we are catching, right?

But say we brought a 22" fish on board and we start arguing about what it is, and proceed to toss it back in, well that's not legal if its anything but an Atlantic.

Thanks everyone for your help. I appreciate it.

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As the captain, if you think it's an Atlantic and It's under 25"....toss it back! If you bring in an undersized Atlantic, not only will you be dq'd, the dec will be having a chat with you. It's your a$$ on the line....not the observers. None of us want to throw back a legal fish....fishing has not been that great. My team caught 3 Atlantic's on day one of the Orleans Pro Am. They were all in the 20-22 inch range and we tossed all three back asap so they would survive. Believe me....I would have loved to keep them if they were browns, as we only boated 2 legal fish that day. We also threw back a 21 3/8 inch steelie.....another tough call!!

One under size fish will ruin your tournament, so if it's to close to call, release it.

Just my opinion...good luck!!

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Fantastic pic - that's the only one I've ever seen with a "lake" brown and land-locked (atlantic) side by side.

My guess is a lot of fisherman are keeping smaller Atlantics b/c they think they're browns.

Thanks again,

- Chris

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