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Passage of adult coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) over Lake Creek Falls, Oregon, 2019

November 4, 2022

Across the Pacific Northwest, there are many examples of artificial structures created to allow passage of upstream-migrating salmon over natural barriers. We studied upstream passage across three structures installed in 1989 to allow passage of salmon over Lake Creek Falls, a series of three natural waterfalls at the outlet of Triangle Lake on Lake Creek, in the central Oregon Coast Range (lat 123.57508°; long 44.15735°). To track upstream passage by adult coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), 87 fish were tagged using gastrically implanted radio tags. Tracking was accomplished with a series of stationary receivers installed to detect crossings at each of three structures—over Lake Creek Falls using two upstream Denil-type ladders and a bypass downstream constructed to mimic a natural side channel. Tracking spanned the upstream migration and spawn timing for adult coho salmon in the basin and extended from October 2019 to February 2020. A total of 15 coho salmon (17 percent) were tagged in October, 30 coho salmon (35 percent) were tagged in November, and 42 coho salmon (48 percent) were tagged in December. Later-than-normal precipitation and associated low discharge delayed upstream migrations. Accordingly, most fish arrived late in the season (late November and December) and in sudden flushes with the erratic rain events. Fish that were tagged earlier were more likely to cross all three ladders, with more than 93 percent of fish tagged in October compared to 46.7 and 19.0 percent of November and December fish passing, respectively. The decline in passage rate could be attributed to the overlapping influences of stream discharge and advanced stage of maturation (lower energy reserves) of fish later in the season. Near the end of the study, both fish that crossed and fish obstructed by barriers were observed in tributaries known to be used for spawning by coho salmon. Without a much longer-term study involving many more fish than the current study, more intensive tracking, and coverage of different flow years, firm conclusions are difficult to draw regarding the overall influences of the passage structures on the likelihood of upstream passage by adult coho salmon. However, substantial numbers of fish are capable of crossing during certain conditions. The population-level consequences of the barriers on spawning distribution and the production of coho salmon in the watershed are not clear. Additional empirical study or population modeling could be used to address this question in more detail.

Publication Year 2022
Title Passage of adult coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) over Lake Creek Falls, Oregon, 2019
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221083
Authors Reed B. Fischer, Jason B. Dunham, Nicholas Scheidt, Amy C. Hansen, Emily D. Heaston
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1083
Index ID ofr20221083
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; Western Fisheries Research Center