Approximately 200 km from the mouth of the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada, adult sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka, were gastrically implanted with radio transmitters without anaesthetic. Subsets of the transmitter implanted fish were also biopsied which included drawing blood from the caudal peduncle (3 ml), removal of gill tissue (0·03 g) and quantification of energetic status using a microwave fat meter. Several experiments were used to test the hypothesis that the biopsy had a negligible effect on the subsequent survival and migratory behaviour of transmitter implanted fish. In the first experiment, no difference was found in the survival (both 100%) or tag retention (both 100%) between the two treatment groups (transmitter implanted with and without biopsy) when fish were held in pens for 24 h in the marine environment. Similarly, in other experiments where fish were released to the ocean to resume their migratory journey, no statistical differences were found in the travel times of fish in the two treatment groups, or in the proportion of fish that passed in-river telemetry checkpoints. These results indicated that the handling and biopsy methods produced similar levels of mortality and tag retention as the telemetry treatment alone and that any changes in behaviour between the two treatment groups did not adversely affect migration time. Based upon the evidence provided from the biotelemetry of >300 adult sockeye salmon, it was felt that this general type of approach could be applicable to other fish species.