Juvenile Steelhead Distribution, Migration, Feeding, and Growth in the Columbia River Estuary, Plume, and Coastal Waters Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/articles/fb494b023

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  • Relative to extensive research on the freshwater stages of steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss life history, little is known about the species’ estuarine and early marine phases despite the decline of numerous populations, including several from the Columbia River. Comparisons of the distribution, diet, and growth of juvenile steelhead collected during surveys of the Columbia River estuary and coastal waters in May, June, and September 1998–2011 were analyzed for comparisons between fish caught in the estuary and ocean and between hatchery (marked) and putative wild (unmarked) fish. Almost all catches of juvenile steelhead in the ocean occurred during the May surveys (96%). Juvenile steelhead were consistently caught at the westernmost stations (>55 km from shore), indicating an offshore distribution. Based on otolith structure and chemistry, we determined that these juveniles had been in marine waters for an average of only 9.8 d (SD = 10.2). Some of the steelhead that had been in marine waters for 1–3 d were captured at the westernmost edge of survey transects, indicating rapid offshore migration. Estuary-caught fish ate fewer prey types and consumed far less food than did ocean-caught fish, which ate a variety of prey, including juvenile fishes, euphausiids, and crab megalopae. Estuary- and ocean-caught unmarked fish exhibited higher feeding intensities, fewer empty stomachs, and better condition than hatchery fish. Growth hormone levels (insulin-like growth factor 1 [IGF-1]) in unmarked fish and hatchery fish varied annually, with unmarked fish having slightly higher overall values. In general, the FL, condition, stomach fullness, and IGF-1 of ocean-caught steelhead increased with distance offshore. Unlike juveniles of other salmonid species, steelhead appeared to quickly migrate westward from coastal rivers and showed patterns of increased feeding and growth in offshore waters. An understanding of the estuarine and ocean ecology of steelhead smolts may assist in the management of threatened steelhead populations.
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  • Daly, E. A., Scheurer, J. A., Brodeur, R. D., Weitkamp, L. A., Beckman, B. R., & Miller, J. A. (2014). Juvenile Steelhead Distribution, Migration, Feeding, and Growth in the Columbia River Estuary, Plume, and Coastal Waters. Marine and Coastal Fisheries, 6(1), 62-80. doi:10.1080/19425120.2013.869284
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