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Migratory behavior of Chinook salmon microjacks reared in artificial and natural environments

November 12, 2014

Emigration was evaluated for hatchery Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) microjacks (age-1 mature males) and immature parr (age-1 juveniles, both sexes) released from both a hatchery and a natural stream (fish released as fry). In the hatchery, volitional releases (∼14 to 15 months post-fertilization) to an adjacent river occurred during October–November. The hatchery release was monitored by using an experimental volitional release that diverted fish to a neighboring raceway. Fish captured during the experimental release (range 361–4,321 volitional migrants) were made up of microjacks and immature parr. Microjacks were found only in the migrant samples, averaged 18% (range 0–52%) of all migrants, and were rarely found in non-migrant samples. In comparison, immature parr were common in both the migrant and non-migrant samples. Microjacks were significantly longer (9%), heavier (36%), and had a greater condition factor (16%) than migrant immature parr (P<0.01). In addition, they differed significantly (P<0.01) from non-migrant immature parr; 10% longer, 44% heavier and 14% greater condition factor. In natural streams, microjacks were captured significantly earlier (P<0.01) than immature parr during the late-summer/fall migration and comprised 9–89% of all fish captured. Microjacks have the potential to contribute to natural spawning populations but can also represent a loss of productivity to hatchery programs or create negative effects by introducing non-native genes to wild populations and should be monitored by fishery managers.