Abstract. Life-history strategies are means by which animals solve the problems of successful reproduction in varying environments. Their development patterns are consequences of responses to the opportunities the environment offers them. Understanding them requires an understanding of the way they evolved, their ontogenetic development, their physiological control, and their adaptive value. The present paper views the salmonids as marine fishes, which have radiated into fresh water through using river beds as protected spawning grounds. It also takes the view that the maturation process has priority over somatic growth in fish, and that it has already been initiated by the time of first feeding. Its completion is environmentally dependent, and can be arrested annually. Whether or not it will be arrested depends on the status of the energy stores of the individual at particular critical times of year. This mechanism has adaptive value both for immediate reproductive success — adequate energy to provision the next generation — and for later overwinter survival, ensuring that if energy stores are inadequate for reproduction they are spared. Atlantic salmon show variation in their reproductive patterns, and examples are given from laboratory and aquaculture experiments to demonstrate some environmental controls which result in these variations. A hypothetical model is presented to account for the operation of these controls.