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Understanding the influence of predation by introduced fishes on juvenile salmonids in the Columbia River Basin: Closing some knowledge gaps. Interim Report of Research 2010

December 30, 2011

Project overview 

Predation on juvenile salmonids by fish in the Columbia River Basin (CRB) has impacted salmon survival and is a topic that has received considerable attention over the last three decades. Some of the earliest and most detailed research focused on the food habits, consumption rates, abundance, and distribution of predaceous northern pikeminnow Ptychocheilus oregonensis, smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu, walleye Sander vitreus, and channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus in John Day Reservoir (Beamesderfer and Rieman 1991; Poe et al. 1991; Vigg et al. 1991). This group of researchers also estimated the loss of juvenile salmonids to predation by some of these predators (Rieman et al. 1991). Since this pioneering effort, others have evaluated various aspects of predation-related mortality on juvenile salmonids in the CRB, focusing mostly on northern pikeminnow and smallmouth bass (e.g., Tabor et al. 1993; Zimmerman 1999; Naughton et al. 2004). 

Perhaps the most significant finding coming from this body of research was that the native northern pikeminnow was the dominant predator of juvenile salmonids in the CRB. Indeed, Beamesderfer et al. (1996) estimated that northern pikeminnow consumed about 16 million (8%) of the estimated 200 million juvenile salmonids emigrating annually in the CRB, far surpassing the consumption of smallmouth bass, walleye, and channel catfish combined. Because of this, large-scale management fisheries (i.e., the northern pikeminnow management program, or NPMP; see Rieman and Beamesderfer 1990; Beamesderfer et al. 1996) have been implemented in the CRB since 1990 to achieve a 10%–20% exploitation rate on northern pikeminnow and reduce predation on juvenile salmonids. The NPMP has been a success, resulting in up to 38% potential reductions in predation (Friesen and Ward 1999; Knutsen and Ward 1999; Ward and Zimmerman 1999;). 

In contrast to the NPMP, Oregon and Washington state fish and wildlife agencies manage and enhance recreational fisheries for smallmouth bass and walleye by implementing size and harvest limit regulations. Recently, many biologists and fish managers have become concerned about the impact of non-native predaceous fishes on juvenile salmonid survival. For example, Poe et al. (1994) warned that smallmouth bass, walleye, and channel catfish were expanding their populations in some areas, that these fish could be significant predators on juvenile salmonids, and that they may compete with northern pikeminnow for common prey items, resulting in higher consumption rates of salmonids by the native predator. Sanderson et al. (2009) reported that the impact of non-indigenous species (including piscivorous fishes) on salmon survival within the CRB can be severe and suggested that managing nonindigenous species may be imperative for salmon recovery. Assessing the current ecological impacts of introduced fishes throughout the CRB will fill information gaps associated with their impact on salmonid survival and contribute to the description of CRB food webs. 

In response to these recent concerns about the potential predatory impact of non-native piscivores on salmon survival, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority (CBFWA) co-hosted a workshop to address predation on juvenile salmonids in the CRB by non-native fish (Halton 2008). The purpose of the workshop was to review, evaluate, and develop strategies to reduce predation by non-native fishes on juvenile salmonids. In the end, discussion at the workshop and at subsequent meetings considered two potential ideas to reduce predation by non-native fish on juvenile salmonids; (1) understanding the role of juvenile American shad Alosa sapidissima in the diet of non-native predators in the fall; and (2) the effects of localized, intense reductions of smallmouth bass in areas of particularly high salmonid predation. In this report, we describe initial efforts to understand the influence of juvenile American shad as a prey item for introduced predators in the middle Columbia River. Our first objective, addressed in Chapter 1, was to evaluate the efficacy of nonlethal methods to describe the physiological condition of smallmouth bass, walleye, and channel catfish from late summer through late fall. Such information will be used to understand the contribution of juvenile American shad to the energy reserves of predaceous fish prior to winter. In Chapter 2, we describe the results of some limited sampling to document the food habits of smallmouth bass, walleye, and channel catfish in three reservoirs of the middle Columbia River during late fall. Collectively, we hope to increase our understanding of the contribution of juvenile American shad to the diets of introduced predators and the contribution of this diet to their energy reserves, growth, and perhaps over-winter survival. Managers should be able to use this information for deciding whether to control the population of American shad in the CRB or for managing introduced predaceous fish in the CRB. 

Publication Year 2011
Title Understanding the influence of predation by introduced fishes on juvenile salmonids in the Columbia River Basin: Closing some knowledge gaps. Interim Report of Research 2010
Authors Brien P. Rose, Gabriel S. Hansen, Matthew G. Mesa
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Environment, Fish & Wildlife Publication
Index ID 70093886
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center