Salmon are considered mature as they start to turn color or are close to the rivers they are going to spawn in. Some salmon turn color more than others. Often Coho and Sockeye don’t turn color until they are in the rivers they are heading up. As salmon are getting ready to come up the river, their meat often softens. At this stage, they are 1-2 months away from dying. If you are wanting to fish for the best tasting salmon, make sure you fish in the ocean away from the river mouth.
Salmon don’t feed much as they hang around the river mouth. They usually spend anywhere from a day to a week getting their gills accustomed to the fresh water before coming up the river. On occasions where storms are making the rivers full of muddy water, salmon can spend just a few hours around the mouth of the river before making the journey up the river.
As salmon makes its journey back to spawn, it follows the same route it took as a smolt. One of the most amazing things about salmon is their incredible instinct in finding that exact path back to the river it was born in. A salmon will almost kill itself trying to get up to lay its eggs if there is something in the way. In cases where a waterfall is too high salmon will spend most their energy trying to hurl themselves up the water fall. In some cases they miss and land on the shore and die.