We evaluated freshwater growth and survival from juvenile (ages 0–3) to smolt (ages 1–5) and adult stages in wild steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss sampled in different precipitation zones of the Skagit River basin, Washington. Our objectives were to determine whether significant size-selective mortality (SSM) in steelhead could be detected between early and later freshwater stages and between each of these freshwater stages and returning adults and, if so, how SSM varied between these life stages and mixed and snow precipitation zones. Scale-based size-at-annulus comparisons indicated that steelhead in the snow zone were significantly larger at annulus 1 than those in the mixed rain–snow zone. Size at annuli 2 and 3 did not differ between precipitation zones, and we found no precipitation zone × life stage interaction effect on size at annulus. Significant freshwater and marine SSM was evident between the juvenile and adult samples at annulus 1 and between each life stage at annuli 2 and 3. Rapid growth between the final freshwater annulus and the smolt migration did not improve survival to adulthood; rather, it appears that survival in the marine environment may be driven by an overall higher growth rate set earlier in life, which results in a larger size at smolt migration. Efforts for recovery of threatened Puget Sound steelhead could benefit by considering that SSM between freshwater and marine life stages can be partially attributed to growth attained in freshwater habitats and by identifying those factors that limit growth during early life stages.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Size-selective mortality of steelhead during freshwater and marine life stages related to freshwater growth in the Skagit River, Washington|
|Series title||Transactions of the American Fisheries Society|
|Publisher||Taylor & Francis|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Seattle|
|Other Geospatial||Skagit River|