Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Behavior and survival of coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch (Walbaum), in Sashin Creek, southeastern Alaska

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  • Behavior and survival in fresh water were studied for three brood years of coho salmon in Sashin Creek, Alaska, from October 1963, until September 1966. Investigations of spawning adults were conducted to determine numbers of spawners, distribution on the spawning grounds, effects on pink salmon, age composition, redd life, fecundities, and egg retention. Juvenile coho were studied to determine changes in population size, distribution in the stream, age composition of the population, food habits, and rates of mortality during fresh-water life. The number of coho spawners counted into Sashin Creek each year normally varied from 50 to 300. Weir counts and estimations of the number of spawners determined from observed spawning effort and redd life were not accurate methods of estimating the coho escapement into Sashin Creek. In 1965, a more accurate estimate was obtained by tagging a portion of the run and recording marked to unmarked ratios on the spawning grounds. I estimated that less than two percent of the viable pink salmon embryos were destroyed in 1965 by the spawning activities of coho salmon. Most coho spawners returned to Sashin Creek in 1965 and 1966 in their fourth year of life after having migrated to sea in their third year (designated 4₃). Smaller numbers of 3₂ and 5₄ individuals composed the remainder of the spawning population. The mean redd life of 56 females was 13 days. A small sample of coho from Sashin Creek examined for fecundity in 1966 gave a mean of 2,868 eggs per female. A weir or fyke net was fished in the spring to estimate emigration of juvenile coho. Coho smolts left Sashin Creek from April through July; peak emigration occurred in late May or early June. Coho fry left the stream in the spring and summer in widely varying numbers from year to year. I estimated from growth data, population estimates, and analysis of scale samples that most coho juveniles remained in Sashin Creek for two growing seasons before migrating to sea. Analysis of scales from juvenile coho indicated that some reabsorption of scales occurs during the winter. The possibility of reabsorption of circuli makes back-calculation of the length of younger age-groups of coho from scale measurements unreliable. Diptera were represented more often than any other order of insects in the stomachs of juvenile coho. Hemiptera were important as food items to juvenile coho in a tributary stream. The estimated survival from egg deposition to immediately prior to emergence varied between 17.5 and. 34.9 percent for the three brood years, and averaged 27. 8 percent. Early summer populations of fry were variable in size and dependent on the size of the egg deposition of the brood. Populations of fry declined rapidly during July and early August. Instantaneous mortality rates were much higher for this period than during any other time in the fresh-water life of coho salmon in Sashin Creek. Mortality dropped to a low level during the following winter period.
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