Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon life history investigations annual report, 2009

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In 2009, we used radio and acoustic telemetry to evaluate the migratory behavior, survival, mortality, and delay of subyearling fall Chinook salmon in the Clearwater River and Lower Granite Reservoir. We released a total of 1,000 tagged hatchery subyearlings at Cherry Lane on the Clearwater River in mid August and we monitored them as they passed downstream through various river and reservoir reaches. Survival through the free-flowing river was high (>0.85) for both radio- and acoustic-tagged fish, but dropped substantially as fish delayed in the Transition Zone and Confluence areas. Estimates of the joint probability of migration and survival through the Transition Zone and Confluence reaches combined were similar for both radio- and acoustic-tagged fish, and ranged from about 0.30 to 0.35. Estimates of the joint probability of delaying and surviving in the combined Transition Zone and Confluence peaked at the beginning of the study, ranging from 0.323 (SE =NA; radio-telemetry data) to 0.466 (SE =0.024; acoustic-telemetry data), and then steadily declined throughout the remainder of the study. By the end of October, no live tagged juvenile salmon were detected in either the Transition Zone or the Confluence. As estimates of the probability of delay decreased throughout the study, estimates of the probability of mortality increased, as evidenced by the survival estimate of 0.650 (SE =0.025) at the end of October (acoustic-telemetry data). Few fish were detected at Lower Granite Dam during our study and even fewer fish passed the dam before PIT-tag monitoring ended at the end of October. Five acoustic-tagged fish passed Lower Granite Dam in October and 12 passed the dam in November based on detections in the dam tailrace; however, too few detections were available to calculate the joint probabilities of migrating and surviving or delaying and surviving. Estimates of the joint probability of migrating and surviving through the reservoir was less than 0.2 based on acoustic-tagged fish. Migration rates of tagged fish were highest in the free-flowing river (median range = 36 to 43 km/d) but were generally less than 6 km/d in the reservoir reaches. In particular, median migration rates of radio-tagged fish through the Transition Zone and Confluence were 3.4 and 5.2 km/d, respectively. Median migration rate for acoustic-tagged fish though the Transition Zone and Confluence combined was 1 km/d.

We radio tagged 84 smallmouth bass and six channel catfish in the Confluence reach and later detected 48 bass and 1 catfish during mobile tracking. Predators were primarily located along shorelines in the Confluence, but a couple of smallmouth bass did swim into the Clearwater River. Most radio-tagged subyearlings that we determined to be dead were also located in shoreline areas suggesting that predation could account for some of the mortality we observed.

Our total dissolved gas (TDG) monitoring in the lower Clearwater River showed a cyclic pattern of low (~102%) TDG in the morning and higher (~110%) TDG in the late afternoon. Using a compensation depth of 1 m, we found that 15.4% (3.9 ha) of the lower 13 km of the Clearwater River would not provide fish with an opportunity for depth compensation in a low flow year. Water temperatures in the Clearwater River showed diel variations of about 2°C, and generally ranged from 10-12°C during summer flow augmentation. The Clearwater River generally showed little thermal variation while our tagged fish were at large, whereas the Snake River at the downstream boundary of the Confluence was thermally heterogeneous until mid-September. In the unimpounded Clearwater River, simulated water velocities ranged from about 1.3 to 1.5 m/s before flow augmentation ended, and were about 0.6 m/s thereafter. By comparison, velocities at the Clearwater River mouth were about 0.3 m/s during flow augmentation, and about 0.1 m/s thereafter.

From October 2008 to February 2009 and from July 2009 to March 2010 we used monthly mobile hydroacoustic surveys to estimate the number of juvenile Chinook salmon in Little Goose and Lower Granite reservoirs, the first two reservoirs encountered on the lower Snake River by downstream migrants. Concurrent lampara seining was used to verify acoustic targets, calculate condition factors, and to examine spatial and temporal density patterns. Our data indicated that holdovers are larger in warmer water temperature years and smaller in colder water temperature years. Lampara catch data indicated that holdovers were seasonally the most abundant and in the best condition in November and December, whereas the hydroacoustic data showed population peaks in October in Lower Granite Reservoir and in January in Little Goose Reservoir. Maximum population estimates in Lower Granite Reservoir were 6,929 in October 2008 and 7,218 in October 2009. In Little Goose Reservoir, maximum population estimates were 9,645 in January 2009 and 10,419 in January 2010. By February, abundances and relative condition factors decreased as most holdovers had probably moved past Lower Granite and Little Goose dams. Spatial differences were primarily longitudinal with greater holdover abundances in the lower reaches of both reservoirs.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Snake River Fall Chinook Salmon life history investigations annual report, 2009
Year Published 2010
Publisher Bonneville Power Administration Report
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description 121 p.
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