Abstract Carlin tagging data for 1980–1991 were used to examine the influence of smolt size and feeding conditions on the post-smolt survival of ranched River Neva salmon, (Salmo salar L.), in the the Gulf of Finland, which is the native feeding area of the stock, and in the Bothnian Sea, where the stock has been introduced. Because of better feeding conditions, the survival rates were higher and less variable in the Gulf of Finland than in the Bothnian Sea. In the Bothnian Sea, the annual variability in survival decreased and the mean value increased with increasing smolt size from the smallest (14–16 cm) to the largest (28–30 cm) size classes. The survival was positively correlated with growth rates, food resources and sea-surface temperatures. This suggests that in the Bothnian Sea the annual variability in survival is mainly because variable marine conditions affect growth rates, and, thus, the vulnerability of the post-smolts to size-dependent predation. In the Gulf of Finland, the survival advantage of large initial size and rapid growth was counteracted by size-selective post-smolt mortality from fishing. The increase in the survival rate with increasing smolt size levelled off at 22 cm, and the correlations between survival, growth and the indices of feeding conditions were mostly insignificant. For large smolts, some negative correlations were recorded, suggesting that the relative significance of mortality from fishing may even exceed that of size-dependent natural mortality. The implications of the results for management are discussed.