Behavior patterns and fates of adult steelhead, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon released into the upper Cowlitz River Basin, 2005–09 and 2012, Washington

Open-File Report 2016-1144
Prepared in cooperation with the Public Utility District Number 1 of Lewis County, Washington, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
By: , and 

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Abstract

A multiyear radiotelemetry evaluation was conducted to monitor adult steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha), and coho salmon (O. kisutch) behavior and movement patterns in the upper Cowlitz River Basin. Volitional passage to this area was eliminated by dam construction in the mid-1960s, and a reintroduction program began in the mid-1990s. Fish are transported around the dams using a trap-and-haul program, and adult release sites are located in Lake Scanewa, the uppermost reservoir in the system, and in the Cowlitz and Cispus Rivers. Our goal was to estimate the proportion of tagged fish that fell back downstream of Cowlitz Falls Dam before the spawning period and to determine the proportion that were present in the Cowlitz and Cispus Rivers during the spawning period. Fallback is important because Cowlitz Falls Dam does not have upstream fish passage, so fish that pass the dam are unable to move back upstream and spawn. A total of 2,051 steelhead and salmon were tagged for the study, which was conducted during 2005–09 and 2012, and 173 (8.4 percent) of these regurgitated their transmitter prior to, or shortly after release. Once these fish were removed from the dataset, the final number of fish that was monitored totaled 1,878 fish, including 647 steelhead, 770 Chinook salmon, and 461 coho salmon.

Hatchery-origin (HOR) and natural-origin (NOR) steelhead, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon behaved differently following release into Lake Scanewa. Detection records showed that the percentage of HOR fish that moved upstream and entered the Cowlitz River or Cispus River after release was relatively low (steelhead = 38 percent; Chinook salmon = 67 percent; coho salmon = 41 percent) compared to NOR fish (steelhead = 84 percent; Chinook salmon = 82 percent; coho salmon = 76 percent). The elapsed time from release to river entry was significantly lower for NOR fish than for HOR fish for all three species. Tagged fish entered the Cowlitz River in greater proportions than the Cispus River, regardless of origin. We found that 23–47 percent of the HOR fish entered the Cowlitz River and 12–38 percent entered the Cispus River. Similarly, 67–70 percent of the NOR fish entered the Cowlitz River and 38–66 percent entered the Cispus River. These behavioral differences translated into similar differences in fates during the spawning periods as higher percentages of tagged fish were assigned Cowlitz River fates than Cispus River fates.

Fallback rates were affected by fish origin and release site. Overall, 12 percent of steelhead, 19 percent of Chinook salmon, and 8 percent of coho salmon fell back downstream of Cowlitz Falls Dam prior to spawning. Fallback rates were lower for fish that were released in the Cowlitz River or the Cispus River than for reservoir-released fish, but statistical comparisons were not robust because of small sample sizes at the river release sites. Fallback rates for fish released at the river release sites were 10 percent lower for steelhead, 4 percent lower for Chinook salmon, and 9 percent lower for coho salmon than for reservoir-released fish. However, fallback rates also were different between HOR and NOR fish. Fallback rates were significantly higher for HOR reservoir-released fish than for NOR reservoir-released fish.

This study provided data that were insightful for understanding behavior and movement patterns in the upper Cowlitz River Basin and yielded estimates of fallback rates and fish fates that may be useful for fishery managers in the years to come. Studies from other systems have shown that factors such as prespawn mortality and fallback have resulted in substantial losses to spawning populations where trap-and-haul programs are being used as a restoration tool. Future research in the upper Cowlitz River Basin may use additional telemetry studies, genetic analyses, and spawning ground surveys to provide answers for new questions and to continue to monitor the progress of the reintroduction effort.

Suggested Citation

Kock, T.J., Ekstrom, B.K., Liedtke, T.L., Serl, J.D., and Kohn, Mike, 2016, Behavior patterns and fates of adult steelhead, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon released into the upper Cowlitz River Basin, 2005–09 and 2012, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1144, 36 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161144.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Behavior patterns and fates of adult steelhead, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon released into the upper Cowlitz River Basin, 2005–09 and 2012, Washington
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2016-1144
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161144
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description vi, 36 p.
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Upper Cowlitz River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N