Time course of the salmon’s acclimation responses?
The behavioral (drinking or not drinking) and physiological changes a salmon must make when moving from fresh water to salt water — and vice versa — are essential, but cannot be accomplished immediately. Thus, when a young salmon on its seaward journey first reaches the saline water at the mouth of its home stream, it remains there for a period of several days to weeks, gradually moving into saltier water as it acclimates. During this time, it begins drinking the water it’s swimming in, its kidneys start producing a concentrated, low-volume urine, and the NaCl pumps in its gills literally reverse the direction that they move NaCl (so that they’re now pumping NaCl out of the blood and into the surrounding water.
Likewise, when an adult salmon is ready to spawn and reaches the mouth of its home stream, it once again remains in the brackish ( i.e. less concentrated than full-strength sea water) water zone of the stream’s mouth until it is able to reverse the changes it made as a juvenile invading the ocean for the first time.