Atlantic Salmon are no different to many other fish species. What they’ll eat when they’re young and what they eat when they’re mature is very different.


Young Atlantic Salmon spend the early part of their life in rivers and streams, eating mostly insect larvae and aquatic insects such as blackflies, stoneflies, caddisflies and chironomids.


Terrestrial insects are most important when insects are en mass during late spring and summer.

Searching for Baitfish in Fresh Water

In late spring and early summer insects are in abundance. Insects come alive and begin mating as the weather warms up. Their numbers increase dramatically and can be found in and around trees more than in the open water surrounding the river or lake.


This attracts many predatory species including trout, bass, charr and of course salmon.

However when fishing for Lake Trout in lakes and rivers, letting the boat drift off shore and casting into the trees is ideal. Though fly fishing is still fine for catching Salmon when fishing on a lake.

Searching for Baitfish in Salt Water

When at sea, salmon eat a variety of marine organisms. Plankton such as euphausiids are important food for pre-grisle but amphipods and decapods are also consumed. Larger salmon eat a variety of fish such as herring and alewives, smelts, capelin, small mackerel, sand lace and small cod.


Atlantic Salmon grow much quicker in the sea than when they’re in fresh water. This is due to the greater abundance of food in most parts of their distributions.


As some of our readers have pointed out, there’s always exceptions to the rule. However our main goal is to present you with the general rule of thumb.

Atlantic Salmon Spawning Diet

Popular research says that spawning Atlantic Salmon don’t eat as they enter their birth river to spawn. However this doesn’t mean they won’t strike at a fly.

This indicates one or several reasons why they strike:

  1. They’re striking the fly out of a sense of defending their territory and not out of hunger. This is common with many spawning fish species
  2. They’re not actively feeding or seeking out a meal, but will eat if food is presented with little effort
  3. That the salmon striking the fly are not actually spawning. This is easy to conclude if the salmon in question is silvery in color and not bright red/purple in color.

Atlantic Salmon Table Fare

I’d be amiss to talk about what Atlantic Salmon eat without mentioning what they taste like themselves.


Atlantic Salmon meat tastes best when the flesh is pink to orange-red in color. It has a pleasant smell and largely free from blemishes. If the meat smells off, don’t take a chance – throw it away.


Atlantic Salmon can be prepared in many ways from grilling on the BBQ with a touch of lemon to being baked in the oven or even put in a stir fry.


To really bring out the flavor, consider using recipes that braise the salmon with spices and herbs that offer mild flavor like curry, tarragon, garlic, pepper, parsley, white pepper and lemon.


Salmon is high in omega-3 fats and is safe for eating several times a month without too much worry of chemical build up. However pregnant mothers should check with their doctors on how much fish should be eaten.


Another treat is salmon sushi and sashimi as well as smoked salmon. Try smoked salmon with capers and a mild cheese, red wine and freshly baked banquets or Italian white with butter…. delicious!