The relationship between smoltification and smolt-to-adult return (SAR) of spring chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha from the Deschutes River, Oregon, was examined for four release groups in each of three successive years. Fish were reared, marked with coded wire tags, and released from Round Butte Hatchery, Pelton Ladder rearing facility, and Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery. Smolt releases occurred in nearly the same place at similar times, allowing a direct comparison of SAR to several characters representing smolt quality. Return rates varied significantly among facilities, varying over an order of magnitude each year. The highest average SAR was from Pelton Ladder, the lowest was from Warm Springs. Each of the characters used as metrics of smoltification - fish size, spring growth rate (February-April), condition factor, plasma hormone concentration (thyroxine, cortisol, and insulin-like growth factor-I [IGF-I]), stress challenge, gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity, and liver glycogen concentration - varied significantly among facilities and seasonally within hatchery groups. However, only spring growth rate, gill ATPase activity, and plasma IGF-I concentration showed significant relationships to SAR. These characters and SAR itself were consistently lower for fish released from Warm Springs Hatchery than for fish from Round Butte Hatchery and Pelton Ladder. This demonstrates that differences in the quality of fish released by facilities may have profound effects on subsequent survival and suggests that manipulations of spring growth rate may be used to influence the quality of smolts released from facilities.
Additional publication details
Growth, smoltification, and smolt-to-adult return of spring chinook salmon from hatcheries on the Deschutes river, Oregon