Evidence is building to suggest that both chronic and acute warm temperature exposure, as well as other anthropogenic perturbations, may select for small adult fish within a species. To shed light on this phenomenon, we investigated physiological and anatomical attributes associated with size-specific responses to an acute thermal challenge and a fisheries capture simulation (exercise+air exposure) in maturing male coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Full-size females were included for a sex-specific comparison. A size-specific response in haematology to an acute thermal challenge (from 7 to 20 °C at 3 °C h(-1)) was apparent only for plasma potassium, whereby full-size males exhibited a significant increase in comparison with smaller males ('jacks'). Full-size females exhibited an elevated blood stress response in comparison with full-size males. Metabolic recovery following exhaustive exercise at 7 °C was size-specific, with jacks regaining resting levels of metabolism at 9.3 ± 0.5 h post-exercise in comparison with 12.3 ± 0.4 h for full-size fish of both sexes. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption scaled with body mass in male fish with an exponent of b = 1.20 ± 0.08. Jacks appeared to regain osmoregulatory homeostasis faster than full-size males, and they had higher ventilation rates at 1 h post-exercise. Peak metabolic rate during post-exercise recovery scaled with body mass with an exponent of b~1, suggesting that the slower metabolic recovery in large fish was not due to limitations in diffusive or convective oxygen transport, but that large fish simply accumulated a greater 'oxygen debt' that took longer to pay back at the size-independent peak metabolic rate of ~6 mg min(-1) kg(-1). Post-exercise recovery of plasma testosterone was faster in jacks compared with full-size males, suggesting less impairment of the maturation trajectory of smaller fish. Supporting previous studies, these findings suggest that environmental change and non-lethal fisheries interactions have the potential to select for small individuals within fish populations over time.