The northern pikeminnow Ptychocheilus oregonensis is a large, native cyprinid in the Columbia River basin that has persisted in spite of substantial habitat alterations. During the months of June to September 1993-1996, we investigated the temporal and spatial patterns of northern pikeminnow spawning, along with describing larval drift and characterizing larval and early juvenile rearing habitats in the lower Columbia River (the John Day and Dalles reservoirs and the free-flowing section downstream of Bonneville Dam) as well as in the lower sections of two major tributaries (the John Day and Deschutes rivers). The density of newly emerged drifting larvae was higher in dam tailraces (a mean of 7.7 larvae/100 m3 in surface tows) than in the lower reservoirs (0.3 larvae/100 m3), indicating that tailraces were areas of more intense spawning. Density was particularly high in the Bonneville Dam tailrace (15.1 larvae/100 m3), perhaps because adult northern pikeminnow are abundant below Bonneville Dam and this is the first tailrace and suitable main-stem spawning habitat encountered during upriver spawning migrations. Spawning also occurred in both of the tributaries sampled but not in a backwater. Spawning in the Columbia River primarily took place during the month of June in 1993 and 1994, when the water temperature rose from 14??C to 18??C, but occurred about 2 weeks later in 1995 and 1996, possibly because of cooler June water temperature (14-15??C) in these years. The period of drift was brief (about 1-3 d), with larvae recruiting to shallow, low-velocity shorelines of main-channel and backwater areas to rear. Larvae reared in greatest densities at sites with fine sediment or sand substrates and moderate- to high-density vegetation (a mean density of 92.1 larvae/10 m3). The success of northern pikeminnow in the Columbia River basin may be partly attributable to their ability to locate adequate spawning and rearing conditions in a variety of main-stem and tributary locations.
Additional publication details
Early life history of the northern pikeminnow in the lower Columbia River basin