Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 96, Issue 2–3, pp 245–256 | Cite as

Holding behavior of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead (O. mykiss) smolts, as influenced by habitat features of levee banks, in the highly modified lower Sacramento River, California

  • David Zajanc
  • Sharon H. Kramer
  • Nadav Nur
  • Peter A. Nelson


Using acoustic telemetry methods on large numbers of tagged fish, we studied how the holding behavior of Chinook salmon and steelhead smolts could be related to habitat features and spatial and temporal variables on a highly altered section of the Sacramento River. We viewed downstream migration as a process in which fish transition between moving and holding states, and used a binomial and negative binomial Generalized Linear Model to analyze two aspects of holding: 1) probability of holding, and 2) holding time. For Chinook salmon, the probability of holding increased as wood size and fine substrates increased; holding time increased as overhead shade increased. For steelhead, holding behavior was only weakly related to habitat variables, in contrast to the strong relationships with spatial and temporal variables. For both species, the probability of holding increased when distance from the release location decreased and instream flows decreased. We found support for three main findings: 1) spatial and temporal factors have considerably greater influence on Chinook salmon and steelhead smolt holding behavior than nearshore habitat features; 2) holding behaviors of Chinook salmon smolts are influenced more strongly by habitat features than steelhead smolts; and 3) incorporation of habitat features such as large woody material and overhead shade should be considered when conducting nearshore bank rehabilitation projects to increase cover from predators and provide velocity refuge, improving holding habitat during downstream migration.


Acoustic telemetry Chinook salmon Downstream migration Holding Steelhead 



We thank the California Department of Water Resources for funding this project [Agreement # 4600007998], specifically William O’Leary, Deborah Condon, and Kip Young for their support and guidance. We also thank the Interagency Flood Management Collaborative Program Critical Repairs Technical Task Group representatives for their support and feedback throughout the project. We also owe thanks to the many individuals that assisted in our data collection over the years: Laura Bauman, Steve Carpenter, Scott Demurs, Neil Kalson, Steve Kramer, Catherine Little, Trevor Lucas, Charles McClain, Amy Rauth, and Patrick Reynolds. Special thanks to Robert Abbott for deploying three receivers at our sites. We also thank the California Fish Tracking Consortium for providing data that we used for our analyses; NMFS staff Arnold Ammann and Cyril Michel, and UC Davis researchers Phil Sandstrom and Mike Thomas were particularly helpful. Sheri Woo, Christine Hamilton, Ron Duke, Adam Wagschal, and Samatha Moturi greatly improved the quality of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Zajanc
    • 1
  • Sharon H. Kramer
    • 1
  • Nadav Nur
    • 2
  • Peter A. Nelson
    • 3
  1. 1.H. T. Harvey & AssociatesArcataUSA
  2. 2.PRBO Conservation SciencePetalumaUSA
  3. 3.Collaborative Fisheries Research WestSanta CruzUSA

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