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Tucker Brauer
Fish 314
12-04-13
Cold Fish Files: The effects of water temperature on migration rate for Columbia Basin Spring
Chinook Salmon ( Oncorhynchus tshawytscha).
Abstract. Spring Chinook salmon migrate to river systems during the spring season to
ultimately spawn in the fall season. They must travel long distances and cross various
dams in order to reach spawning grounds. This results in a wide range of travel times
among individual fish. This paper investigated the effect of water temperature on
migration rate in spring Chinook salmon in the Columbia River basin. Based on a sample
of 1635 fish marked in 2000 and 2001 above Lower Granite Dam we estimated the time
it took for the fish to travel upstream between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam
during the spawning migration. The water temperature at Bonneville Dam at the time
these fish started their migration served as their migration temperature. Travel time was
plotted with travel temperature to determine their relationship. Results showed that no
significant relationship between water temperature and travel time existed. Plotting of
migration date at Bonneville dam and water temperature did suggest a possible
relationship between temperature and migration timing though it was not conclusive
evidence. An average travel temperature of 11.6 degrees was observed as well as an
average travel time of 15.5 days. The majority of fish in all return years began migration
at an average of 11 degrees Celsius which occurred at very different times in each year.
The relationship between travel timing and travel temperature may have implications
regarding climate change as fish may begin migrating earlier as global temperatures
warm causing changes in ecosystem health. More consistent or evident relationships may
be observable through a broader temperature and time scope.

Introduction
The Chinook salmon life cycle is a large mixture of stages, obstacles and environmental
cues. Chinook travel upstream from the ocean for long distances in order to spawn and
reproduce in the same waters that they themselves were hatched from only to die soon
afterwards. Their offspring then spend from 3 months to a year in the river before travelling
downstream to the ocean to grow and repeat the process. This process is littered with countless
cues and factors that influence the timing, speed and overall success of these fishes journey. The
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effects of things like water temperature and chemical profiles of different streams on migration
are not well known by us. The study of these markers could quite possibly help us return salmon
populations to their historical large size.
One of the more interesting factors effecting migration is the effects of water
temperature. This is because water temperature is a very important aspect on fish health
worldwide. It would make sense that it would also heavily influence the migration success of
anadromous salmon, more specifically we believed it would influence the travel speed of the
fish. This is because a during spring season, water temperatures are highly variable due to high
runoff as snowpack melts. Along with high water temperature variability in the spring season, we
also observe a large variability in fish travel speeds. This difference in travel rate is observable
throughout many anadromous species (Salinger). The high variance of temperature and travel
times led us to believe they may be related.
From an evolutionary fitness standpoint, a faster travel time would make sense in
multiple ways. Less energy expended by fish during migration would mean more energy could
be allocated towards gamete production. Fish arriving at spawning sites first would also have
first pick of ideal spawning gravel, giving their offspring an advantage over competing juveniles.
Also, fish spending less time in the river environment travelling would have a smaller exposure
to unfavorable biotic and abiotic factors such as predation and dangerous river conditions. Before
the installations of dams in the Columbia River Basin, fish would make this journey much faster
due to less obstacles. The addition of those obstacles and subsequent water temperature changes
may have possibly slowed the travel of todays fish, reducing their fitness.
This paper investigates the effects of differing water temperatures on the travel speed of
fish. If there is in fact a relationship it will help the future management decisions of salmon as
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we will understand the effects of other environmental conditions on salmon health. Considering
the variability of both water temperature and fish travel times throughout the Columbia River
system, we believe a relationship exists. We predict the existence of an optimal travel
temperature at which spring Chinook salmon will travel a fixed distance in the shortest amount
of time.
Methods
The area we chose for this study was the stretch of river from Bonneville dam (BON) in
Oregon to Lower Granite Dam (LGR) in Washington. This area made the most sense as it
duplicated previous studies as well as provided a long distance that could take a long time to
travel depending on the fish (Salinger et al 2006). This duplication also allowed for easier
comparison to other studies. To test our hypothesis we primarily used a PIT tag database called
PTAGIS. This database is a public record of every tagged salmon throughout the Columbia
River Basin. Everything from observation dates to tagging site and year of individual fish can be
extracted using PTAGIS. We used PTAGIS to find juvenile spring Chinook salmon that were
originally marked anywhere above LGD during the outmigration of 2000 and 2001. This
ensured returning adult salmon would travel the entire length of our sample area to return to natal
areas above LGR and provide us with accurate data. Next, we extracted the date at which these
individually tagged fish returned to BON and also the date they successfully reached LGR during
their return spawning voyage as adults.
To determine travel temperatures during migration, we used temperatures in BON fore
bay at the time the fish started migration up river based on the date of final tag detection at a
BON fish ladder. Using Data Access Real Time (DART) we extracted temperature data for the
years 2002-2005 at BON fore bay. These years represent the span of time during which our PIT
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tagged adults returned to the river to spawn. The temperature at this site served as travel
temperature because variability in river temperatures throughout the study area would make a
total travel temperature impossible to achieve (Goneia et al 2006).The changes in temperature
caused by dam release, input from feeder streams as well as weather variability all influence in
river temperature. The fore bay at BON gave us a temperature which we assume was
representative of overall river average since all water in the Columbia basin drains through it
(Salinger et al 2006). The temperature of the fore bay at a fishes beginning travel date served as
its migration temperature.
Matching the fishes travel temperature to its travel duration was the final step in data
management. The time between final detections at both BON and LGR fish ladders gave us each
individuals fishes travel time. Comparing the date of a fishs initial detection at BON to the
corresponding temperature for that day revealed its travel temperature. We created figures
comparing every fishes travel time against its corresponding travel temperature. We also
compared the relationship of migration timing and travel temperature. We searched primarily for
a strong relationship between fast travel times and a specific temperature.
Results
The relationship between temperature and travel times was very weak to nonexistent. Strength of
the correlation was very low (R
2
=.0185) indicating a very weak association between temperature and
migration rate (Figure 2). Travel time remained relatively constant throughout a range of water
temperatures. Overall average travel time for all years was 15.5 days. Travel temperature average was
11.6 degrees Celsius (Table 1). The range between first recorded fish at BON and last recorded
observation at BON had an average of 110 days.
Fish returning in 2002 were 98.8% hatchery origin fish. Average travel temperature was15.14
days and average travel temperature was 11.9 degrees. Minimum travel time recorded was 8 days with a
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maximum of 113 days (Table 1). The greatest number of fish passed BON on April 30
th
(Figure 3).
Timing of this years run fell roughly two weeks before 2003 fish.
The total number of fish returning in 2003 was 947 individuals which was the largest run year of
our sample. Fish returning in 2003 were 95% hatchery origin fish. Average travel time was 17.2 days and
average travel temperature was 10.5 degrees Celsius. Minimum travel time was 8 days with a maximum
of 87 days (Table 1). On April 15
th
the most fish began travel at a water temperature of 9.8 degrees
(Figure 4).
The total number of returning fish in 2004 was 92 individuals. Fish returning in 2004 were 33%
hatchery origin fish which was the lowest of all years. The average travel time was 14.14 days and an
average travel temperature of 12.4 degrees Celsius was recorded, which was higher than average
temperatures of previous years. A minimum travel time was 8 days and maximum travel time was 62 days
(Table 1). On Aril 17
th
the largest wave of salmon recorded began at a travel temperature of 10.69 degrees
Celsius (Figure 5).
Discussion
Our data did not support our original hypothesis as we had hoped. We found no clear evidence
that water temperature plays a part in the migration rates of spring Chinook. This does not mean it doesnt
play a major role in other species as was found in Salinger et al (2006 Ideally fish would be spending as
little time and energy to travel as possible to improve their reproductive fitness (Geist et al 2011). The
addition of obstacles to their migration path may me reducing salmon fitness by increasing travel times. A
combination of obstacles and possible human mitigation induced hurdles, such as barging of juvenile fish,
causing higher stray rates (Keefer et al 2008) may be contributing to the highly variable travel times in
our sample. Fish may also be travelling very quickly between dams and then spending long periods at
each dam in the effort to cross them. In this case travel times may be related to temperature but dams are
just significantly impeding their progress. Flow rates may have a larger impact on fish travel than
temperature does. Instead of specific temperatures affecting travel rate, the sudden change of river
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temperature may cause faster travel. Similar studies may still show a relationship in the future.
Expanding the time scale in which we investigated travel times may show trends across a broader scope.
Use of more detailed temperature data throughout the migration may help to show relationships between
travel temperature and travel time.
Between different years we found that bulk of fish may have an optimal temperature at which
they start their migration at Bonneville Dam. Travel timing seems to depend on the date at which a certain
temperature occurs in the river. Our data showed the bulk of fish migration in 2003 occurred a month
earlier than in 2002. This mass migration occurred at relatively similar water temperatures between the
two years. This is an interesting concept to those concerned with climate change. Earlier salmon
migrations may be brought on by earlier warming due to streams reaching the optimal travel temperature
earlier. These early migrations may have large implications on total ecosystem health. If salmon begin
running earlier in the year it will put stress on species that have adapted to depend on yearly salmon runs
for survival.
A new area to study may be the relationships of migration timing in hatchery versus wild stock
salmon. Our data showed that in years 2002-2003 nearly all fish were of hatchery origin. Comparing the
migration timing of 2002-2003 fish to the 2004 fish which were mainly wild salmon showed that the wild
salmon may have a higher optimal travel temperature than hatchery stock salmon. The proportion of wild
fish in 2004 may also suggest that wild fish may prefer spending longer periods in the ocean than
hatchery fish. This would mean larger body size and more egg production but would also increase the
wild fishs chance of being killed in the ocean. It may also affect success in spawning due to higher
competition later in the year for spawning gravel.
From the information that we collected in this study, we cant definitively state that water
temperature and travel speed are related. We can however suggest that temperature may influence run
timing in spring Chinook salmon. Evidence that there are different travel preferences between wild and
hatchery stock was also found. What this means for the future conservation of this species is that
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managers must be aware of the changing conditions salmon are experiencing. The awareness of these
changes can allow the proper regulation of dams and sport fishery take. This will also allow managers to
predict the effects of climate change on salmon dependent species.

Figure 1. Map of study area. Red line indicates area of study between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam
(DART)








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Table 1. Summary Statistics for spring chinook study. Including average travel time, average temperature at
Bonneville Dame, minimum and maximum travel times in sample, and span of time between first recorded
observation and last recorded observation at Bonneville Dam.


Figure 2. Spring Chinook salmon migration times in days between Bonneville dam and Lower Granite dam plotted
against water temperature at Bonneville fore bay.
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
T
r
a
v
e
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Temperature(C)
Travel Rate in relation to Travel temperature
2003
2002
2004
Year 2002 2003 2004 Overall
#Fish 581 947 92 1620
Avg travel
(days) 15.14 17.27 14.14 15.5
Avg Temp
(C) 11.9 10.5 12.4 11.6
Min
Travel(Days) 8 8 8 8
Max
Travel(Days) 113 87 62 87
Range(Days) 94 124 114 110
%Hatchery 98.8 95.5 33.7

%Wild 1.2 4.5 66.3

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Figure 3. Counts of fish observed at Bonneville Dam with their corresponding travel temperatures (2
nd
y-axis) for
adult spring Chinook migrating in 2002.

Figure 4. Counts of fish observed at Bonneville Dam with their corresponding travel temperatures (2
nd
y-axis) for
adult spring Chinook migrating in 2003.

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Figure 5. . Counts of fish observed at Bonneville Dam with their corresponding travel temperatures (2
nd
y-axis) for
adult spring Chinook migrating in 2004.












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References
Columbia River Data Access Real Time: Army Corps of Engineers
http://www.cbr.washington.edu/dart/query/wqm_graph

Goniea, T.M, Mathew Keefer, Theodore C.B. Bjornn. 2006. Behavioral thermoregulation and
slowed migration by adult fall Chinook salmon in response to high Columbia River water
temperatures. Transactions of American Fisheries Society, 135(2), 408419.
Geist, D.R., C.S. Abernathy, S.L. Blanton, V.I. Cullinan. 2008. The Use of Electromyogram
Telemetry to Estimate Energy Expenditure of Adult Fall Chinook Salmon. Transactions
of American Fisheries Society. 129(1): 126-125.
Keefer, K.L.,Caudill,C.C.,Peery,C.A.,Lee,L.R.2008. Transporting Juvenile Salmonids Around
Dams Impairs Adult Migration. Ecological Applications 18(8): 1888-1900.
Salinger. D. H., J. J. Anderson. 2006. Effects of Water Temperature and Flow on Adult Salmon
Migration Swim Speed and Delay. Transactions of American Fisheries Society, 135:1,
188-199.
The Columbia Basin PIT Tag Information System (PTAGIS). http://www.ptagis.org/