The Nisqually Fall Chinook population is one of 27 stocks in the Puget Sound evolutionarily significant unit listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Preservation and extensive restoration of the Nisqually delta ecosystem is currently taking place to assist in recovery of the stock as juvenile Fall Chinook salmon are dependent upon the estuary. A pre-restoration baseline that includes characterization of life history types, estuary residence times, growth rates, and habitat use is needed to evaluate the potential response of hatchery and natural origin Chinook salmon to restoration efforts and determine restoration success. Otolith analysis was selected to examine Chinook salmon life history, growth, and residence in the Nisqually Estuary. Previously funded work on wild samples collected in 2004 established the growth rate and length of residence associated with various habitats. The purpose of the current study is to build on the previous work by incorporating otolith microstructure analysis from 2005 (second sampling year), to verify findings from 2004, and to evaluate between-year variation in otolith microstructure. Our results from this second year of analysis indicated no inter-annual variation in the appearance of the tidal delta check (TDCK) and delta-flats check (DFCK). However, a new life history type (fry migrant) was observed on samples collected in 2005. Fish caught in the tidal delta regardless of capture date spent an average of 17 days in the tidal delta. There was a corresponding increase in growth rate as the fish migrated from freshwater (FW) to tidal delta to nearshore (NS) habitats. Fish grew 33 percent faster in the tidal delta than in FW habitat and slightly faster (14 percent) in the delta flats (DF) habitat compared to the tidal delta.
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USGS Numbered Series
Pre-Restoration Habitat Use by Chinook Salmon in the Nisqually Estuary Using Otolith Analysis: An Additional Year