Recognised by the pristine condition and bright silver flanks. Fish straight from salt water have loose, easily detached scales and many carry sea lice which drop off within a few days. Hen salmon (illustrated) have a tiny kype on the lower jaw but unlike cocks they retain normal head proportions while in the river.
Maturing Cock and Hen
Cock: The combination of "tartan" colours is typical although shades vary - the fully developed kype, used in fighting rivals, and the enlarged adipose fin, are the most consistent indicators of maturity.
Hen: These are usually less coloured than cocks of similar age and they never have enlarged jaws. This one will have spent a few weeks in river or estuary - note the coloured head and lack of true silver flanks.
Cock and Hen In Breeding Dress
Cock: The combination of 'tartan' colours is typical although shades vary - the fully developed kype, used in fighting rivals is the most consistent indicator of maturity.
Hen: This is a summer fish - springers are often darker by spawning time while late entrants may still be silver flanked. Fully mature hens have soft, swollen bellies and spawning is imminent if they also have protruding vents.
Kelts are salmon which have spawned. Usually identified by the thin shape, distended vent and presence of "gill maggots" on the red gill filaments, they are often encountered by anglers in spring when they regain a silvery appearance and can be mistaken for fresh run Springers. Kelts must be returned unharmed to the water.
In late autumn and early Winter Atlantic salmon make nests known as redds in shallow gravel areas and this takes place in the main river channel and in tributary streams. Counting these redds can give an indication of spawning success and the distribution of spawning within a catchment. The video below shows spawning taking place at dusk in early December on a tributary of the River Ure.
And the following morning, a huge redd with an equally huge cock salmon sat in it (25lb plus). The fish moved off when I approached but was soon back again moments after I moved away. I left him to his guarding duties!
A full redd count on the River Ure and main tributaries was carried out by David Bamford in 2001. Redd locations were mapped using GPS and then incorporated on a salmon redd abundance map (see below). This survey needs repeating as soon as possible but conditions need to be perfect in order to make an accurate count. The river was never low enough this winter and after a number of large floods, redds get flattened and nearly impossible to see.