Predation by Northern Pikeminnow and tiger muskellunge on juvenile salmonids in a high–head reservoir: Implications for anadromous fish reintroductions

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
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The feasibility of reintroducing anadromous salmonids into reservoirs above high-head dams is affected by the suitability of the reservoir habitat for rearing and the interactions of the resident fish with introduced fish. We evaluated the predation risk to anadromous salmonids considered for reintroduction in Merwin Reservoir on the North Fork Lewis River in Washington State for two reservoir use-scenarios: year-round rearing and smolt migration. We characterized the role of the primary predators, Northern Pikeminnow Ptychocheilus oregonensis and tiger muskellunge (Northern Pike Esox lucius × Muskellunge E. masquinongy), by using stable isotopes and stomach content analysis, quantified seasonal, per capita predation using bioenergetics modeling, and evaluated the size and age structures of the populations. We then combined these inputs to estimate predation rates of size-structured population units. Northern Pikeminnow of FL ≥ 300 mm were highly cannibalistic and exhibited modest, seasonal, per capita predation on salmonids, but they were disproportionately much less abundant than smaller, less piscivorous, conspecifics. The annual predation on kokanee Oncorhynchus nerka (in biomass) by a size-structured unit of 1,000 Northern Pikeminnow having a FL ≥ 300 mm was analogous to 16,000–40,000 age-0 spring Chinook Salmon O. tshawytscha rearing year-round, or 400–1,000 age-1 smolts migrating April–June. The per capita consumption of salmonids by Northern Pikeminnow having a FL ≥ 200 mm was relatively low, due in large part to spatial segregation during the summer and the skewed size distribution of the predator population. Tiger muskellunge fed heavily on Northern Pikeminnow, other nonsalmonids, and minimally on salmonids. In addition to cannibalism within the Northern Pikeminnow population, predation by tiger muskellunge likely contributed to the low recruitment of larger (more piscivorous) Northern Pikeminnow, thereby decreasing the risk of predation to salmonids. This study highlights the importance of evaluating trophic interactions within reservoirs slated for reintroduction with anadromous salmonids, as they can be functional migration corridors and may offer profitable juvenile-rearing habitats despite hosting abundant predator populations.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Predation by Northern Pikeminnow and tiger muskellunge on juvenile salmonids in a high–head reservoir: Implications for anadromous fish reintroductions
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1080/00028487.2015.1131746
Volume 145
Issue 3
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Fisheries Society
Publisher location Bethesda, MD
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
First page 521
Last page 536
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Merwin Reservoir
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