Abstract Seasonal differences in smolt traits and the post-smolt survival of wild Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., were investigated by smolt trapping and Carlin-tagging in the River Simojoki, northern Finland between 1991 and 2004. The annual trapping season was divided into two halves based on the median catch date. Smolt length was significantly higher during the first half of the season, while differences in smolt weight were typically small. Smolt age was always significantly higher during the first half of the season because older smolts tended to migrate earlier in the season. Many smolts migrating during the early season and almost all smolts migrating later had started their new growth, indicating that smolts grow in the spring before sea entry. The differences in recaptures between smolts tagged during the first and second halves were insignificant. Although variations in smolt traits and environmental conditions can produce inter-annual variation in post-smolt survival, their seasonal differences seem to be too small to have an effect.