Download PDF Download Document

Evaluate Bull Trout Movements in the Tucannon and Lower Snake Rivers, 2002-2003

Category: Fish/Shellfish Research and Management - Fish/Shellfish Research

Date Published: April 15, 2004

Number of Pages: 31

Author(s): Micheal P. Faler, Glen Mendel and Carl Fulton


We collected 279 adult bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the Tucannon River during the Spring and Fall of 2003. Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags were inserted in 191 of them, and we detected existing PIT tags in an additional 31bull trout. Thirty five of these were also surgically implanted with radio-tags, and we monitored the movements of these fish throughout the year. Fourteen radio-tags were recovered shortly after tagging, and as a result, 21 remained in the river through December 31, 2003.

Four bull trout that were radio-tagged in spring 2002 were known to survive and carry their tags through the spring and/or summer of 2003. One of these fish spent the winter near river mile (RM) 13.0; the other 3 over-wintered in the vicinity of the Tucannon Hatchery between RM 34 and 36. Twenty-one radio tags from bull trout tagged in 2002 were recovered during the spring and summer, 2003. These tags became stationary the winter of 2002/2003, and were recovered between RM 11 and 55. We were unable to recover the remaining 15 tags from 2002.

During the month of July, radio-tagged bull trout exhibited a general upstream movement into the upper reaches of the Tucannon subbasin. We observed some downstream movements of radio-tagged bull trout in mid to late September and throughout October. By late November and early December, radio tagged bull trout were relatively stationary, and were distributed from the headwaters downstream to river mile 6.4, near Lower Monumental Pool. As in 2002, we did not conduct work associated with objectives 2, 3, or 4 of this study, because we were unable to monitor migratory movement of radio-tagged bull trout into the Federal hydropower system on the mainstem Snake River.

Transmission tests of submerged ATS model F1830 radio-tags in Lower Granite Pool showed that audible detection and individual tag identification was possible at depths of 20 and 30 ft. Tests were conducted using an ATS R-4000 Receiver equipped with an “H” antenna at 200 and 700 feet above water surface from a helicopter. Audible detection and frequency separation were possible at both elevations.

Two years of high tag loss, particularly after spawning, has prevented us from documenting fall and winter movements with an adequate sample of radio tagged bull trout. The high transmitter loss after spawning may be a reflection of high natural mortality for large, older age fish that we have been radio tagging to accommodate the longer life transmitters. Therefore, we are planning to reduce the size of the radio tags that we implant, and delay most of our collection and tagging of bull trout until after spawning. These changes are a new approach to try to maximize the number of radio tagged bull trout available post spawning to adequately document fall and winter movements and any use of the Snake River by bull trout from the Tucannon River.

Suggested Citation:
Faler, Michael, Glen Mendel, Carl Fulton, Carl Fulton, "Evaluate Bull Trout Movements in the Tucannon and Lower Snake Rivers", 2002-2003 Annual Report, Project No. 200200600 (et al.), 31 electronic pages, (BPA Report DOE/BP-00009774-2)