Identifying differences in quantitative life history traits between cultured and native or non-native wild populations is important in assessing the impact of accidental and deliberate introductions of hatchery-reared fish into the wild. As the ability to exploit the marine environment is the defining life history characteristic of anadromous salmonids, knowledge of variation in smoltification characteristics among populations is crucial in determining how these introductions affect fitness in recipient populations. Data are presented here describing the timing and extent of the autumn migration; the propensity for male Parr maturation; the timing of the spring migration; and the size of autumn and spring migrants from Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations from various genetic backgrounds. These experiments were carried out under common garden conditions over a decade in the Srahrevagh River in the west of Ireland. Population specific genetically determined differences in quantitative life history traits associated with smoltification were apparent. These differences may reflect smolt quality and therefore impact on marine survival and ultimately lifetime fitness. Both hatchery domestication and geography (different selective environments) were found to be important factors determining smolt phenotypes, although it was difficult to measure the relative contribution of each. These results indicate that farm, native hatchery, non-native wild salmon (even from a neighbouring catchment) and their hybrids with native wild fish, are likely to produce less well adapted and thus poorer quality smolts than native wild populations and, where wild populations are extant, such stocks should not be used for enhancement purposes. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.