Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 96, Issue 2–3, pp 175–187 | Cite as

Archival and acoustic tags reveal the post-spawning migrations, diving behavior, and thermal habitat of hatchery-origin Sacramento River steelhead kelts (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

  • Steven L. H. TeoEmail author
  • Phil T. Sandstrom
  • Eric D. Chapman
  • Robert E. Null
  • Kurt Brown
  • A. Peter Klimley
  • Barbara A. Block


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.


Salmonid Electronic tag Geolocation Movement Water temperature Depth Marine Ocean Freshwater 



We thank the staff and students of the Coleman National Fish Hatchery and the UC Davis biotelemetry lab for helping with tagging and maintaining the steelhead. Archival tags for this study were provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Tagging of Pacific Pelagics project, and Lotek Inc. Acoustic tags were provided by the US Army Corp of Engineers, San Francisco. We are thankful to the members and funders for the California Fish Tracking Consortium, which deployed and maintained the acoustic receiver array. We would like to thank S. Hayes, H. Dewar, S. Hamelberg, and two anonymous reviewers for reading and suggesting improvements to the manuscript. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect policies of any government agency. Mention of trade names and commercial products in this paper does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use by any government agency.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven L. H. Teo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Phil T. Sandstrom
    • 2
  • Eric D. Chapman
    • 2
  • Robert E. Null
    • 3
  • Kurt Brown
    • 4
  • A. Peter Klimley
    • 2
  • Barbara A. Block
    • 5
  1. 1.NOAA/NMFS, Southwest Fisheries Science CenterLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation BiologyUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.US Fish & Wildlife ServiceRed BluffUSA
  4. 4.US Fish & Wildlife ServiceColeman National Fish HatcheryAndersonUSA
  5. 5.Hopkins Marine StationStanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA

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