Smolting Atlantic salmon exhibit a seasonal increase in seawater tolerance that is associated with changes in the abundance of major gill ion-transporter transcripts and proteins. In the present study, we investigate how the transcript and protein abundance of specific ion-transporter isoforms relate to each other during smolt development and seawater acclimation, and how each correlates to seawater tolerance. We show that during smolt development both mRNA and protein abundance of gill Na+/K+-ATPase α1a subunit (NKAα1a) decreased but the decrease in the mRNA was five-times greater than that of the protein. Gill NKAα1b mRNA levels increased only slightly (1.5-fold) throughout development whereas protein abundance increased 30-fold at its peak. Gill Na+/K+/2Cl- co-transporter 1 (NKCC1) increased at the mRNA and protein level (5- and 12-fold) in smolts. The abundance of a gill ion-transporter's mRNA and protein changed in the same direction through development and after seawater transfer, but the changes were not always strongly correlated: NKAα1a (r = 0.768), NKAα1b (r = 0.40), and NKCC1 (r = 0.898). The maintenance of plasma chloride concentration correlated most strongly with the abundance of NKAα1a mRNA, and the ratio of NKAα1b to NKAα1a mRNA and protein. Growth performance after seawater transfer correlated most strongly with the abundance of NKAα1b protein and the ratio of NKAα1b to NKAα1a protein. Our results indicate that the abundance of ion-transporter mRNA and protein do not always correlate well and a decrease in the abundance of gill NKAα1a mRNA and increase in NKAα1b protein are strong predictors of seawater tolerance and growth performance after seawater transfer.