|Abstract or Summary
- A study of the distribution, relative abundance and diet of
fishes sympatric with juvenile sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
(Walbaum), within the freshwater nursery areas of the Naknek River
system was undertaken from 1961 to 1963. The study was part of an
extensive investigation to determine what factors in the freshwater
environment were limiting the size of the populations of sockeye
salmon returning to the rivers of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The speties found associated with juvenile salmon in the limnetic
zones of the Naknek system were the pond smelt, Hypomesus
olidus (Pallas); the least cisco, Coregonus sardinella Valenciennes;
the threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus Linnaeus; and
the ninespine stickleback, Pungitius pungitius (Linnaeus). Life history information was collected for these sympatric species.
Tow nets were used to capture samples of fish from the limnetic
portions of the nursery areas. Some samples were collected
by beach seines, lake traps and otter trawls. Plankton samples
were collected and compared to the diets of the limnetic fishes.
Although some confusion has existed in the literature, I concluded
that pond smelt of the Naknek system belong to Hypomesus
olidus (Pallas). The populations of smelt were comprised of six
age-groups in the late summer, but most specimens belonged to
three age-groups. Most members of the species spawn in the spring
of the fourth year of life. The estimated fecundity ranged from 900
to 4,300 eggs per female.
Seven age-groups of least ciscoes were present in the populations
of the Naknek system. The species in the Naknek system
probably spawned for the first time in the fall of their fourth year.
The estimated fecundity of two specimens was 4,006 and 14,380
eggs. Populations of three spine stickleback were comprised of three
age-groups of fish. I was unable to assign ages to ninespine stickleback.
Estimates of the fecundity of the species ranged from 116 to
456 eggs per female.
All species studied were distributed throughout the Naknek
system. The relative abundance of the fishes studied was variable
between and within nursery areas and from year to year. The population densities of pond smelt and threespine stickleback were
larger in the surface waters compared to the deep waters. The
relative abundance of sockeye fry, yearlings and ninespine stickleback
was greater in the surface stratum rather than the deep stratum
in most nursery areas.
The five main food items utilized by these limnetic species
were cladocerans (Bosmina sp. and Daphnia sp.); copepods (cyclopoid
copepods and Diaptomus sp.); and Dipteran insects. Analysis
of the similarity of diets indicated that the diets of sockeye fry and
pond smelt were more similar than were the diets of sockeye fry or
yearlings and any other sympatric species. The diet of sockeye fry
was more similar to that of either species of stickleback than was the
diet of sockeye yearlings.
An analysis of the food of various sizes of each species of fish
indicated the diets of three age-groups of smelt were more similar
than the diets of various age-groups of any other fish. The food
composition of three age-groups of ciscoes and two size groups of
both species of stickleback showed a strong positive correlation.
The diets of sockeye fry and yearlings showed the weakest positive
correlation of the species studied.
All species of fish studied selectively fed on one or more
components of the zooplankton. Daphnia sp. and cyclopoid copepods
were strongly selected in Lake Coville. Cyclopoids were selected in South Bay. Bosmina sp. was selected from the waters of West End.
In Lake Coville, the greatest potential competition for food
probably existed between the large populations of pond smelt and
sockeye fry. In the West End nursery area, potential competition
between juvenile salmon and both species of stickleback may not be
severe, depending on the age composition of the salmon population
present in the nursery area.
The possibility exists that the relatively low numbers of adult
sockeye salmon returning to the comparatively rich lakes of the
Naknek River system is due to the presence of large populations of
sympatric species of fish. Each of these sympatric species feed on
the same general types of food organisms as do the juvenile salmon
and may affect the numbers of young salmon that leave the lake, and
subsequently return from the ocean.