Fry and Parr

The young salmon fry begin to move in schools and feed in the river. They feed mainly on zooplankton until they grow large enough to eat aquatic insects and other larger foods. Some species of salmon fry, such as chum and pink, start downstream toward the ocean immediately after emerging from the redd; others stay in fresh water for up to three years. Land-locked salmon, such as kokanee, never migrate to the sea but live their entire lives in fresh water.

Tree Shaded River
Tree Shaded River
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Loss of riparian habitat along streams, rivers, estuaries, and bays is one of the most serious dangers to the wild salmon's survival. Salmon need cool water, bugs to eat, woody debris to hide under, and sediment-free gravel in which to spawn. Riparian habitat along the rivers provide shade which helps keep the water temperature cool throughout the year. Cool, clear water holds lots of oxygen which the salmon also need. Logs, branches, or sticks that fall or hang into the rivers give salmon places to hide and provide food for insects and plants which the salmon feed upon. The roots of trees and bushes also help hold dirt and rocks in place on the bank which reduces sediment runoff.

Although logging rules have been revised to protect riparian habitat, previous logging practices have already caused problems. Sometimes little growth was left beside streams and rivers. This resulted in higher water temperatures and increased sediment runoff. Also, without bushes, trees, or woody debris, fish had no place to hide and little food to eat. Construction of logging roads also contributed to landslides and sediment runoff.

Great Blue Heron
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
As the vulnerable fry grow, they will start to develop spots and vertical parr marks on their sides. These markings help camouflage them from predators such as mergansers and great blue herons. Unlike most fry, pink salmon fry do not develop these parr marks.

Salmon Parr
Photo courtesy of the Corps of Engineers, Portland District
After the fry have developed distinctive parr marks and are actively feeding in fresh water, they are called parr. This stage is generally reached by the end of the first summer. Most species of salmon parr are about five inches long. They feed mainly on aquatic insects but also eat worms, crustaceans, amphibian larvae, fish eggs, and young fish.

After their growth period in fresh water, the salmon will begin migrating toward the sea.