Mean estimated straying rate for Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. leaving the River Imsa as smolts during 1976–1999 was 15% for hatchery fish and 6% for wild conspecifics. Hatchery Atlantic salmon selected for production traits during four or more generations strayed >50%. The straying rate was higher for Atlantic salmon staying 2 rather than 1 year at sea before attaining maturity. For spawning, 96% of the strays entered streams within 420 km from the River Imsa, and c. 80% entered streams within 60 km of the mouth of the River Imsa, whether the fish were wild or hatchery released. Within the 60 km zone, the number of strays caught in a river increased with the Atlantic salmon catch in that river, but there was no significant relationship between straying rate and water discharge or distance from the river to the River Imsa. The observed straying rate of hatchery Atlantic salmon decreased with increasing number of fish entering the River Imsa. Sexual maturation as parr did not influence the tendency to stray. The results suggest that the establishment of temporary zones, free of fish farms, outside important Atlantic salmon rivers by the fisheries authorities in Norway should be large, whole fjords, to be effective.