Archival and acoustic tags reveal the post-spawning migrations, diving behavior, and thermal habitat of hatchery-origin Sacramento River steelhead kelts (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
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- Teo, S.L.H., Sandstrom, P.T., Chapman, E.D. et al. Environ Biol Fish (2013) 96: 175. doi:10.1007/s10641-011-9938-4
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Acoustic and geolocating archival tags were deployed on steelhead kelts to study their post-spawning migrations, diving behavior and thermal habitat. Fourteen reconditioned steelhead kelts were surgically implanted with LAT2510 archival and V7-2 L acoustic tags, and released from Coleman National Fish Hatchery. An array of acoustic receivers in the Sacramento River and Delta, and the San Francisco Bay estuary detected the downstream movement of the steelhead. Two steelhead kelts (J and M) with archival tags were recovered at the hatchery after 219 and 285 days at liberty respectively. Based on changes in geolocations, vertical movements, and water temperatures, the migrations of steelhead J and M were divided into five and six phases respectively. Steelhead J moved into coastal California waters while steelhead M remained in freshwater for the majority of its time at liberty. Large increases in temperature and opacity were recorded before and after the ocean phases, likely as the steelhead moved through the Sacramento Delta. Both steelhead kelts remained relatively close to the surface throughout their migration but there were diurnal differences in the vertical movements. In freshwater, the steelhead tended to be deeper during the day (e.g., steelhead J: 3.08 ± 1.50 vs 1.65 ± 1.15 m, day vs night) but in the ocean, the steelhead were typically deeper during the night (1.32 ± 1.61 vs 5.63 ± 6.11 m). Both steelhead kelts appeared to be less oceanic than a previous study in Scott Creek, a small coastal stream approximately 100 km south of the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Although this study has a small sample size, the results suggest that steelhead kelts from a large river and estuary system, like the Sacramento River, may be relatively less oceanic than steelhead kelts from small coastal streams.