We characterized seasonal fish assemblage, relative density, and growth in river margins above and between two Elwha River dams scheduled for removal. Fish assemblage and relative density differed in the lateral habitats of the middle-regulated and upper-unregulated sections of the Elwha River. Rainbow trout was the numerically dominant salmonid in both sections, with bull trout present in low numbers. Sculpin were common in the middle section, but not detected in the upper section. In 2004, mean length and biomass of age-0 rainbow trout were significantly smaller in the middle section than in the upper section by the end of the growing season (September). In 2005, an earlier emergence of rainbow trout in the middle section (July) compared to the upper section (August) corresponded with warmer water temperatures in the middle section. Despite lower growth, the margins of mainstem units in the middle section supported higher mean areal densities and biomass of age-0 rainbow trout than the up-per section. These results suggest that growth performance of age-0 rainbow trout was lower in the middle section than in the upper section, which could have been a density-dependent response, or a result of poor food production in the sediment-starved regulated section, or both. Based on our findings, we believe that seasonal sampling of river margins within reference reaches is a cost effective and repeatable method for detection of biologically important short- and long-term changes in emergence timing, density, and growth of rainbow trout before and after dam removals in the Elwha River.
Additional publication details
Fish assemblage, density, and growth in lateral habitats within natural and regulated sections of Washington's Elwha River prior to dam removal