Effects of Transmitter Type, Tagging Method, Body Size, and Temperature on Behavior, Physiology, and Swimming Performance of Juvenile Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Open-File Report 2018-1186
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Edited by: Russell W. Perry and Theresa L. Liedtke



The objective of this study was to assess the impact of different tagging methods and transmitter types on juvenile salmonid behavior, mortality, physiology, and swimming performance over a range of water temperatures and fish sizes.

In Chapter 1, two laboratory experiments were conducted to assess maximum burst-swimming speeds, the probability of gulping air, swimming angles, and the probability of resting on a screen in a swim tunnel. For the burst swim speed experiment, we identified a slightly reduced, but statistically significant difference in burst-swimming speeds for gastric- and surgical-tagged fish implanted with dummy radio and acoustic transmitters. For the swim tunnel experiment, surgical-tagged fish were one-half as likely to gulp air at the surface of the swim tunnel as untagged and gastric-tagged fish. We observed higher probabilities of fish gulping air at the surface for fish with tag ratios greater than 5 percent, suggesting that smaller fish required greater adjustment to their buoyancy than larger fish. We also observed that gastric-tagged fish had, on average, steeper swimming angles than untagged and surgical-tagged fish in the swim tunnel.

In Chapter 2, we conducted a field-based laboratory experiment at John Day Dam to assess the sustained swimming performance (i.e., critical swimming speed or Ucrit) of in-river migrating subyearling Chinook salmon that were surgically implanted with dummy radio and acoustic transmitters. Statistical tests indicated a significant reduction (about 8.3 centimeters per second [cm/s] or 1 body length per second) in sustained swimming performance for fish implanted with either radio or acoustic transmitters. We also found a significant reduction in Ucrit of -1.38 cm/s for every 1 degree Celsius (°C) increase in temperature.

In Chapter 3, we assessed the effects of water temperature on the physiology, mortality, and swimming performance of juvenile Chinook salmon in laboratory and field experiments. Juvenile Chinook salmon generally showed elevated stress response, elevated mortality, and reduced swimming performance as water temperature increased. We concluded that the water temperature threshold for handling and tagging fish with minimal impacts seems to be near 23 °C. At 25 °C, we documented very high mortality and dramatically reduced swimming performance of tagged fish relative to controls. Telemetry studies conducted at 25 °C would not meet the critical assumption that the transmitter has minimal impacts on the study fish.

In the Chapter 4, we evaluated the effects of antenna length and antenna material on the subsequent tag output power, reception, and detection of tagged fish. In a laboratory, we compared the relative signal strengths in water of 150-megahertz transmitters over a range of antenna lengths (from 6 to 30 cm) and materials (one weighing about one-half of the other). The peak relative signal strengths were at 20 and 22 cm, which are about 1 wavelength underwater at the test frequency. The peak relative signal strengths at these antenna lengths were about 50 percent greater than those of 30-cm antennas, a length commonly used in fisheries research.

Suggested Citation

Perry, R.W., and Liedtke, T.L., eds., 2018, Effects of transmitter type, tagging method, body size, and temperature on behavior, physiology, and swimming performance of juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): U.S. Geological Survey Open Report 2018–1186, 74 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181186.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Chapter 1. Burst-Swimming, Orientation, and Behavior of Gastric- and Surgical-Tagged Yearling Chinook Salmon Implanted with Dummy Radio and Acoustic Transmitters
  • Chapter 2. Sustained Swimming Performance of In-River Migrating Subyearling Chinook Salmon Surgically Implanted with Dummy Radio and Acoustic Transmitters
  • Chapter 3. Effects of Elevated Water Temperature on the Physiology, Mortality, and Swimming Performance of Radio-Tagged Juvenile Chinook Salmon
  • Chapter 4. Effects of Antenna Length and Material on Output Power and Detection of Miniature Radio Transmitters
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Effects of transmitter type, tagging method, body size, and temperature on behavior, physiology, and swimming performance of juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1186
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181186
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description viii, 74 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y