South Baranof Island
The South Baranof Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area within the Tongass National Forest, located on Baranof Island, Alaska.
Covering 319,568 acres south of Sitka, the South Baranof protects glacier-carved fjords, hanging valleys, old-growth temperate rainforests and sheer granite mountains.
Port Armstrong Hatchery sits just south of this rugged but beautiful wilderness.
The eggs lie in the gravel or incubator substrate through the winter, as the embryos within develop. In late winter, yolk-sac fry, or alevins, hatch.
The tiny fish carry a food supply (a sac of egg yolk) attached to their bellies. They will not leave the protection of the gravel until the yolk is used up, 12 weeks or more.
At that time, the young salmon, now called fry, swim up to the surface, gulp air to fill their swim bladders, and begin to feed.
As salmon begin to mature, they adapt for life in saltwater in an intermediary stage known as smolts.
This process marks the beginning of their first migration from their home stream to the ocean.
In a process called smoltification, salmon adapt to the changes salt water causes to their bodies.
As the smolts prepare for ocean life, their appearance also changes, from the dark colors of the fry to the silvery color of adult salmon.
Salmon enter the ocean as young, or juvenile, adults and leave it as mature adults, ready to spawn.
The length of time salmon spend in saltwater depends on how old they were when they entered, their species, marine conditions, and other factors. Their travels in the ocean are similarly variable, and one of the least understood parts of their lives.
When they are sexually mature, salmon obey their homing instinct and travel back to their natal streams to spawn. It is an arduous journey, and only the toughest and luckiest salmon complete it.