Evaluation of Bull Trout Movements in the Tucannon and Lower Snake Rivers, 2002-2006 Project Completion Summary [report]

Michael P. Faler, Glen Mendel, Carl Fulton
2008 unpublished
The Columbia River Distinct Population Segment of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. One of the identified major threats to the species is fragmentation resulting from dams on over-wintering habitats of migratory subpopulations. A migratory subgroup in the Tucannon River appeared to utilize the Snake River reservoirs for adult rearing on a seasonal basis. As a result, a radio telemetry study was conducted on this subgroup from
more » ... this subgroup from 2002 -2006, to help meet Reasonable and Prudent Measures, and Conservation Recommendations associated with the lower Snake River dams in the FCRPS Biological Opinion, and to increase understanding of bull trout movements within the Tucannon River drainage. We sampled 1,109 bull trout in the Tucannon River; 124 of these were surgically implanted with radio tags and PIT tagged, and 681 were only PIT tagged. The remaining 304 fish were either recaptures, or released unmarked. Bull trout seasonal movements within the Tucannon River were similar to those described for other migratory bull trout populations. Bull trout migrated upstream in spring and early summer to the spawning areas in upper portions of the Tucannon River watershed. They quickly moved off the spawning areas in the fall, and either held or continued a slower migration downstream through the winter until early the following spring. During late fall and winter, bull trout were distributed in the lower half of the Tucannon River basin, down to and including the mainstem Snake River below Little Goose Dam. We were unable to adequately radio track bull trout in the Snake River and evaluate their movements or interactions with the federal hydroelectric dams for the following reasons: 1) none of our radio-tagged fish were detected attempting to pass a Snake River dam, 2) our radio tags had poor transmission capability at depths greater than 12.2 m, and 3) the sample size of fish that actually entered the Snake River was small (n=6). In spite of this project's shortcomings, bull trout continue to be observed in low numbers at Snake River dam fish facilities. It is highly possible that bull trout observed at the Snake River dam fish facilities are originating from sources other than the Tucannon River. We suggest that these fish might come from upstream sources like the Clearwater or Salmon rivers in Idaho, and are simply following the outmigration of juvenile anadromous fish (a food supply) as they emigrate toward the Pacific Ocean. Based on our study results, we recommend abandoning radio telemetry as a tool to monitor bull trout movements in the mainstem Snake River. We do recommend continuing PIT tagging and tag interrogation activities to help determine the origin of bull trout using the Snake River hydropower facilities. As a complementary approach, we also suggest the use of genetic assignment tests to help determine the origin of these fish. Lastly, several recommendations are included in the report to help manage and recover bull trout in the Tucannon subbasin. 3
doi:10.2172/962640 fatcat:nz5iswhxuzcz5jbgg5fiznprdu