Initiation of migration and movement rates of Atlantic salmon smolts in fresh water

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
By: , and 



Timing of ocean entry is critical for marine survival of both hatchery and wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) smolts. Management practices and barriers to migration such as dams may constrain timing of smolt migrations resulting in suboptimal performance at saltwater entry. We modeled influences of stocking location, smolt development, and environmental conditions on (i) initiation of migration by hatchery-reared smolts and (ii) movement rate of hatchery- and wild-reared Atlantic salmon smolts in the Penobscot River, Maine, USA, from 2005 through 2014 using acoustic telemetry data. We also compared movement rates in free-flowing reaches with rates in reaches with hydropower dams and head ponds. We compared movement rates before and after (1) removal of two mainstem dams and (2) construction of new powerhouses. Initiation of movement by hatchery fish was influenced by smolt development, stocking location, and environmental conditions. Smolts with the greatest gill Na+, K+-ATPase (NKA) activity initiated migration 24 h sooner than fish with the lowest gill NKA activity. Fish with the greatest cumulative thermal experience initiated migration 5 days earlier than those with lowest cumulative thermal experience. Smolts released furthest from the ocean initiated migration earlier than those released downstream, but movement rate increased by fivefold closer to the ocean, indicating behavioral trade-offs between initiation and movement rate. Dams had a strong effect on movement rate. Movement rate increased from 2.8 to 5.4 km·h−1 in reaches where dams were removed, but decreased from 2.1 to 0.1 km·h−1 in reaches where new powerhouses were constructed. Movement rate varied throughout the migratory period and was inversely related to temperature. Fish moved slower at extreme high or low discharge. Responses in fish movement rates to dam removal indicate the potential scope of recovery for these activities.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Initiation of migration and movement rates of Atlantic salmon smolts in fresh water
Series title Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
DOI 10.1139/cjfas-2014-0570
Volume 72
Issue 9
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher NRC Research Press
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 13 p.
First page 1339
Last page 1351
Country United States
State Maine
Other Geospatial Penobscot River
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table