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Distribution and movement of bull trout in the upper Jarbidge River watershed, Nevada

June 1, 2010

In 2006 and 2007, we surveyed the occurrence of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), the relative distributions of bull trout and redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and stream habitat conditions in the East and West Forks of the Jarbidge River in northeastern Nevada and southern Idaho. We installed passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag interrogation systems at strategic locations within the watershed, and PIT-tagged bull trout were monitored to evaluate individual fish growth, movement, and the connectivity of bull trout between streams. Robust bull trout populations were found in the upper portions of the East Fork Jarbidge River, the West Fork Jarbidge River, and in the Pine, Jack, Dave, and Fall Creeks. Small numbers of bull trout also were found in Slide and Cougar Creeks. Bull trout were numerically dominant in the upper portions of the East Fork Jarbidge River, and in Fall, Dave, Jack, and Pine Creeks, whereas redband trout were numerically dominant throughout the rest of the watershed. The relative abundance of bull trout was notably higher at altitudes above 2,100 m.

This study was successful in documenting bull trout population connectivity within the West Fork Jarbidge River, particularly between West Fork Jarbidge River and Pine Creek. Downstream movement of bull trout to the confluence of the East Fork and West Fork Jarbidge River both from Jack Creek (rkm 16.6) in the West Fork Jarbidge River and from Dave Creek (rkm 7.5) in the East Fork Jarbidge River was detected. Although bull trout exhibited some downstream movement during the spring and summer, much of their emigration occurred in the autumn, concurrent with decreasing water temperatures and slightly increasing flows. The bull trout that emigrated were mostly age-2 or older, but some age-1 fish also emigrated. Upstream movement by bull trout was detected less than downstream movement. The overall mean annual growth rate of bull trout in the East Fork and West Fork Jarbidge River was 36 mm. This growth rate is within the range reported in other river systems and is indicative of good habitat conditions. Mark-recapture methods were used to estimate a population of 147 age-1 or older bull trout in the reach of Jack Creek upstream of Jenny Creek.

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