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Seasonal use of shallow water habitat in the Lower Snake River reservoirs by juvenile fall Chinook salmon

April 6, 2012

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) is preparing a long term management plan for sediments that affect the authorized project purposes of the Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Ice Harbor reservoirs (hereafter, the lower Snake River reservoirs), and the area from the mouth of the Snake River to Ice Harbor Dam. We conducted a study from spring 2010 through winter 2011 to describe the habitat use by juvenile Chinook salmon within a selected group of shallow water habitat complexes (< 6 m deep) in the lower Snake River reservoirs to help inform the long-term plan. Natural fry and parr were present within all four shallow water habitat complexes that we studied from early spring through early summer, and parr ( = 40,345 ± 18,800 [error bound]) were more abundant than fry ( = 24,615 ± 5,701). Water < 2 m deep was highly used for rearing by natural fall Chinook salmon subyearlings (fry and parr combined; hereafter natural subyearlings) based on duration of use and relative group abundances during spring and summer, whereas the 2–6 m depth interval was more highly used by migratory hatchery fall Chinook salmon subyearlings and spring, summer, and fall Chinook salmon yearlings. Overall mean spring-summer apparent density of natural subyearlings was 15.5 times higher within the < 2 m depth interval than within the 2–6 m depth interval. Density of natural subyearlings also decreased as the distance a given shallow water habitat complex was located from the riverine spawning areas increased. Reservoir-type juveniles (or fish likely destined to become reservoir-type juveniles) were present in the lower Snake River reservoirs from fall 2010 through winter 2011; however, use of shallow water habitat by reservoir-type juveniles was limited during our study. We only collected 38 reservoir-type juveniles in shallow water habitat sites in beach and lampara seines during the fall. Radiotelemetry data revealed that though many tagged fish passed shallow water habitat sites, relatively few fish entered them and the median time fish spent within a given site was less than 1.4 h. Fish located by mobile tracking away from study sites were pelagically oriented, and generally not found over shallow water or close to shore. The findings in this report: (1) support the selection of natural fall Chinook subyearlings as the indicator group for determining the potential benefits of using dredge spoils to create shallow water habitat, (2) provide evidence for shallow water habitat use by natural subyearlings, (3) provide evidence against large-scale use of shallow water habitat by reservoir-type juveniles, (4) suggest that the depth criterion for defining shallow water habitat (i.e., < 6 m deep) warrants reconsideration, and (5) provide guidance for when to dredge and create shallow water habitat. Future research on habitat preference, feeding ecology, the food web, and intra-specific competition would help to better inform the long-term management plan.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title Seasonal use of shallow water habitat in the Lower Snake River reservoirs by juvenile fall Chinook salmon
Authors Kenneth F. Tiffan, William P. Connor
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70044111
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center

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