Recent interest in flood control and restoration strategies in the Chehalis River Basin has increased the need to understand the current status and ecology of spring Chinook salmon. Based on the extended period between freshwater entry and spawn timing, spring Chinook salmon have the longest exposure of all adult Chinook salmon life histories to the low-flow and high water temperature conditions that typically occur during summer. About 100 adult spring Chinook salmon were found dead in the Chehalis River in July and August 2009. Adult Chinook salmon are known to hold in cool-water refugia during warm summer months, but the extent to which spring Chinook salmon might use thermal refugia in the Chehalis River is unknown. The movements and temperature exposures of adult spring Chinook salmon following their return to the Chehalis River were investigated using radiotelemetry and transmitters equipped with temperature sensors, combined with water temperature monitoring throughout the basin. A total of 23 spring Chinook salmon were radio-tagged between April and early July 2015; 11 were captured and released in the main-stem Chehalis River, and 12 were captured and released in the South Fork Newaukum River. Tagged fish were monitored with a combination of fixed-site monitoring locations and regular mobile tracking, from freshwater entry through the spawning period.
Water temperature and flow conditions in the main-stem Chehalis River during 2015 were atypical compared to historical averages. Mean monthly water temperatures between March and July 2015 were higher than any decade since 1960 and mean daily flows were 30–70 percent of the flows in previous years. Overall, 96 percent of the tagged fish were detected, with a mean of 62 d in the detection history of tagged fish. Of the 11 fish released in the main-stem Chehalis River, six fish (55 percent) moved upstream, either shortly after release (2–7 d, 50 percent), or following a short delay (12–18 d, 50 percent). One fish released in the main-stem Chehalis River remained near the release location for 64 d before moving upstream.
The final fates for the seven fish that moved upstream in the main-stem Chehalis River included two fish with unknown fates, two fish with a fate of pre-spawn mortality, and three fish that were assigned a fate of spawner. Four (36 percent) of the radio-tagged Chinook salmon released in the main-stem Chehalis River showed limited movement from their release sites, and were assigned fates of unknown (one fish), pre-spawn mortality (one fish), and spit/mortality (2 fish). The 12 spring Chinook salmon released in the South Fork Newaukum River remained in the South Fork Newaukum River throughout the study period. Five (42 percent) of these fish were actively moving through the spawning period and were assigned a fate of spawner. Seven (58 percent) of these fish were detected for a period following release, but their detection histories ended prior to the spawning period. The fates assigned to these seven fish included two fish with spit/mortality fates and five fish with fates of pre-spawn mortality. Tagged fish in both the Chehalis River and the South Fork Newaukum River showed limited movements during the peak water temperatures in July and August, and were not frequently detected at sites where water temperatures were greater than 21 °C. Pre-spawn mortality due to predation or harvest may be an important factor in the Chehalis River Basin as it was the assigned fate for 27 percent of the fish released in the main-stem Chehalis River and 42 percent of the fish released in the South Fork Newaukum River.
This study represents a substantial contribution to the understanding of spring Chinook salmon in the Chehalis River Basin. The water temperatures and flow conditions during the 2015 study period were not typical of the historical conditions in the basin and the numbers of tagged fish monitored was relatively low, so results should be interpreted with those cautions in mind.
|Title||Behavior and movements of adult spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Chehalis River Basin, southwestern Washington, 2015|
|Authors||Theresa L. Liedtke, Mara S. Zimmerman, Ryan G. Tomka, Curt Holt, Lyle Jennings|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Open-File Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Western Fisheries Research Center|