Where Do Salmon Live and Thrive? Their Lifecycle & Habitats

Salmon are extraordinary fish with a unique lifespan and ecosystem variety. They mostly exist in both freshwater and saltwater settings, spending various seasons of their lives in both. Because of their complex environment connection, they are fascinating animals to research and watch. But where do salmon live?

Salmon are a creature of high ecological value due to their fascinating life cycle and environmental adaptations. Their natural environment extends from freshwater rivers to the huge ocean, but where do salmon live during their incredible journey? Let’s take a closer look at their various habitats.

Where do salmon live?

Here is the main point about where do salmon live:

Freshwater Rivers and Streams

Salmon begin their life in freshwater waterways. They hatch from sandy riverbank eggs and spend their first days as fry in these clean, fast-flowing waters. They eat water insects and build their physical strength here.


As salmon grow and change they start on a long trip to the wide sea. This stage of their lives might extend for many years. They travel deep distances in the cold, fertile waters of the Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, feeding on fish and plankton.

Return to Freshwater

Adult salmon return to their birth waters in order to mate. This is a difficult achievement since they must swim ahead against strong currents and sometimes even against one another.

freshwater salmon
freshwater salmon

As a result, the answer to the question “Where do salmon live?” includes both freshwater and saltwater habitats, showing the amazing freedom of these famous fish during their life cycle.

Where is salmon most commonly found?

Salmon may be found most regularly in the Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Depending on the type of salmon and their life phases, the exact locations where they are prevalent might vary. Some significant salmon-producing areas include:

The Pacific Northwest (North America): It is known for its quantity of salmon species such as Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and Pink salmon. Significant salmon runs occur in the Columbia, Fraser, and Yukon rivers such as the Columbia, Fraser, and Yukon.

Alaska (North America): Alaska is well-known for its wild salmon wealth. Bristol Bay, in particular, is known for its huge sockeye salmon runs.

British Columbia (Canada): Several salmon species live in British Columbia’s coastal waters and rivers, with the British River providing as an important salmon habitat.

Asia’s Northeast Pacific: In Asia, salmon can be found in regions like Kamchatka (Russia) and Hokkaido (Japan), where various salmon species live in freshwater and marine environments.

Northern Atlantic (Europe and North America): Atlantic salmon are found in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, with important populations in Norway, Scotland, and eastern Canada.

Chile (South America): Chile is well-known for its salmon farming sector, which produces an important quantity of farmed salmon, especially Atlantic salmon.

The geographic spread of salmon varies depending on the animals, however, they are frequently connected with the rivers and streams where they spawn and the oceans where they mature. Now we have an idea about where do salmon live.

team of salmon
team of salmon

Where do salmon spawn/eggs in the US?

Here are some important salmon spawning locations in the United States:

The Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon)

Here is home to various salmon species, including Chinook, Coho, and Chum. The Columbia and Snake rivers, as well as the smaller ones, are key places for reproduction.

coho salmon
coho salmon


It is one of the most plentiful salmon-hatching areas in the United States. Bristol Bay, the Kenai Peninsula, the Copper River basin, and a plethora of other rivers and streams across the state are home to a variety of salmon species, including Sockeye, Pink, Coho, and Chinook salmon.

sockeye salmon
sockeye salmon


Salmon, particularly Chinook salmon, reproduce in rivers such as the Sacramento River and its smaller rivers, such as the Chico River, in California.


Salmon River, Clearwater River, and Snake River all have salmon spawning areas. 

salmon egg
salmon egg

Great Lakes (Michigan)

Although salmon are not native to the Great Lakes, attempts are underway to restore the species, particularly Chinook salmon, to the region.

chinook salmon
chinook salmon

Northeast (Maine): Atlantic salmon, another species, spawn in State rivers and streams such as the Penobscot River.

Salmon eating process

Here are the steps for the salmon-eating process:

  1. In freshwater, young salmon (fry and juveniles) feed on small aquatic insects and organisms.
  2. In the ocean, adult salmon become predatory, feeding on fish, squid, and krill, growing rapidly.
  3. When returning to freshwater for spawning, adult salmon typically stop feeding.
  4. After spawning, they weaken, die, and provide nutrients to the ecosystem.

For more, check out: What Does a Salmon Eat? The Diet & Culinary Choices of Salmon

Do sharks eat salmon?

Yes, some types of sharks consume salmon, but it is not a common or important element of their diet. Sharks are opportunistic predators, which means they will eat salmon if the chance comes. This is more likely to occur when salmon are present in the same seas as sharks and the way they eat matches up.

When salmon move from freshwater rivers to the ocean or from one place to another, they may travel through shark-infested regions. Sharks can look for salmon as an extra food supply in such situations. Also, when salmon return to their native rivers for reproduction during spawning runs, they become less immune to attackers, especially sharks.

food of salmon egg
food of salmon egg

It’s important to note that the exact shark species that may eat salmon varies based on the location and the sorts of sharks there. While salmon is a regular food source for some stronger carnivorous sharks, it is not for most shark species.

Related Article, check out: What are the Best Salmon to Eat? Flavor, Health, and Sustainability

What is a migration fish?

Fish migration refers to the large movement of fish from one area or body of water to another. According to Wikipedia, Many different kinds of fish migrate on a regular basis, on time spans varying from daily to annual or longer, and across distances ranging from a few meters to thousands of km. Such migrations are often made for improved feeding or reproduction, however, in certain cases the causes are unknown.

Fish migrations are movements of schools of fish that are bigger in size and duration than those that occur during typical daily activity. Anatropous migration occurs when adult fish live in the sea and move to freshwater to spawn, while catadromous migration occurs when adult fish dwell in freshwater and migrate to saltwater to spawn.


Salmon lead a unique and migratory life cycle that involves transitioning between freshwater and marine environments. Their ability to navigate huge distances and return to their original laying grounds is a critical feature of their biology and plays a crucial role in the ecosystem. The habitats they live, both in freshwater and the ocean, are essential for their survival and the continuance of their class.

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