The portion of the Snake River fall Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha ESU that spawns upstream of Lower Granite Dam transitioned from low to high abundance during 1992–2018 in association with U.S. Endangered Species Act recovery efforts and other federally mandated actions. This annual report focuses on (1) numeric and habitat use responses by natural- and hatchery-origin spawners, (2) phenotypic and numeric responses by natural-origin juveniles, and (3) use of a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) to search for fall Chinook salmon redds and carcasses. Spawners have located and used most of the available spawning habitat and that habitat is gradually approaching redd capacity. Timing of spawning and fry emergence has been relatively stable, but effects of density dependence are evident in juvenile life stages. Apparent abundance of juvenile fall Chinook salmon has increased and we noted the following responses: parr dispersal from riverine rearing habitat into Lower Granite Reservoir has become earlier; growth rate (g/d) and dispersal size of parr declined; and passage timing of smolts from the two Snake River reaches has become earlier and downstream movement rate faster. These findings coupled with stock-recruitment analyses presented in this report provide evidence for density-dependence in the Snake River reaches and in Lower Granite Reservoir that was influenced by the expansion of the recovery program. The long-term goal is to use this information in a comprehensive modeling effort to conduct action-effectiveness and uncertainty research and to inform Fish Population, Hydrosystem, Harvest, Hatchery, and Predation and Invasive Species Management Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation (RM&E).
In 2018, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) searched 10 shallow-water spawning sites and 25 deepwater spawning sites in conjunction with the Idaho Power Company (IPC). A total of 103 redds were counted at shallow-water sites and 61 redds were counted at deepwater sites. We recovered 17 carcasses and 13 live fish, which were spawned out, and collected biological information and tissue samples that are currently being analyzed for parentage to determine the percentage of hatchery-origin spawners on the spawning grounds.