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Snake River fall chinook salmon life history investigations, 2018 annual report

April 30, 2019

The following report is divided into three sections each of which describes work conducted by different project cooperators. Chapter One describes smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) predation on subyearling fall Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in Lower Granite Reservoir in 2018. Smallmouth bass abundance increased seasonally in shoreline habitats and was highest in the lower reach of the reservoir (1,239 fish/km of shoreline). Abundance ranged from 40,743 to 81,595 in 2018. We examined the relationship between smallmouth bass predation and subyearling habitat suitability. Bass abundance was highest in “natural” habitat (i.e., habitat with natural substrate that was not deemed suitable for subyearlings) and fish were generally larger in habitat classified as “suitable” (i.e., habitat deemed suitable rearing) for subyearling Chinook salmon. Subyearlings were present in all habitat types sampled but their abundance was 2–3 times lower in the lower reach of the reservoir. Sand rollers (Percopsis transmontana)—a common prey of smallmouth bass—were present in greatest numbers in “suitable” habitat in the upper reach and “natural” habitat in the middle reservoir reach, but few were observed in the lower reservoir. The total loss of subyearlings to smallmouth bass predation in 2018 (120,023) was slightly less than one-half that of 2016 (266,988) and more than twice that of 2017 (47,830). Total sand roller loss in 2018 (149,106) was slightly more than one-half the losses estimated in 2016 and 2017. Chapter Two describes the feasibility of using stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to distinguish hatchery and natural origin subyearling fall Chinook salmon that were consumed by smallmouth bass. A discriminant function was fit from isotopic signatures and fork length from known-origin hatchery and natural subyearlings. The function had an overall correct classification rate of 97.2%. Of subyearlings consumed by smallmouth bass the function correctly classified 94.3% of hatchery fish but only 64.3% of natural fish based on fish origins that were validated with parentage-based tagging (PBT) analysis. Most of the fish consumed by smallmouth bass were of hatchery origin and most of those were of the spring/summer run early in the year and of the fall run later in the year. Based on analysis of known-origin hatchery fish collected at Lower Granite Dam through time following release, using stable isotopes as a discriminatory tool is probably only effective for about two weeks following release, but may have greater utility in unimpounded systems where fish emigrate seaward more quickly. The third section of this report is a Master’s Thesis that covers work conducted under contracts 46273 REL 14 and 79562. The first chapter of the thesis examined growth of subyearling fall Chinook salmon rearing in three sections of the Snake and Clearwater rivers and Lower Granite Reservoir. Growth and food consumption were highest in the reservoir section than in riverine sections, though growth was not significantly higher in the reservoir for the full duration of the study. Julian date was the strongest predictor of growth and consumption, and both growth and consumption decreased over the course of the study, even when accounting for allometric growth effects. Findings suggest that fish rearing in the reservoir section during their early growth period may have an ephemeral energetic advantage relative to fish rearing in natal river sections. The second chapter of the thesis examined the spatial variation in natal river rearing and downstream movement in Snake River fall Chinook salmon. Based on otolith analyses, natal origin was related to differential habitat use with fish from the Clearwater River accruing 48% of their freshwater growth in their natal river compared to 40% for Snake River fish. These differences were associated with different mean size at natal river exit and at ocean entry. 

Publication Year 2019
Title Snake River fall chinook salmon life history investigations, 2018 annual report
Authors Kenneth F. Tiffan, Paul M. Chittaro, Brian P. Kennedy
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70209059
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center