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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Early life history dynamics of rainbow trout in a large regulated river Korman, Josh


The central objective of this thesis is to better understand early life history dynamics of salmonids in large regulated rivers. I studied spawning, incubating, and age-0 life stages of rainbow trout in the Lee’s Ferry reach of the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam, AZ. My first objective was to evaluate the effects of hourly fluctuations in flow on nearshore habitat use and growth of age-0 trout. Catch rates in nearshore areas were at least 2- to 4-fold higher at the daily minimum flow compared to the daily maximum and indicated that most age-0 trout do not maintain their position within immediate shoreline areas during the day when flows are high. Otolith growth increased by 25% on Sundays in one year of study, because it was the only day of the week when flows did not fluctuate. My second objective was to evaluate the effects of flow fluctuations on survival from fertilization to a few months from emergence (early survival). Fluctuations were predicted to result in incubation mortality rates of 24% in 2003 and 50% in 2004, when flow was experimentally manipulated to reduce trout abundance, compared to 5% in 2006 and 11% in 2007 under normal operations. Early survival increased by over 6-fold in 2006 when egg deposition decreased by at least 10-fold. Because of this strong compensatory dynamic, flow-dependent incubation mortality in experimental years was likely not large enough to reduce the abundance of age-0 trout. My final objective was to determine how flow, fish size and density effects habitat use, growth, and survival of age-0 trout. Apparent survival rates from July to November were 0.18 (2004), 0.19 (2006), and 0.32 (2007). A stock synthesis model was developed to jointly estimate parameters describing early life history dynamics, and indicated that early survival was lower for cohorts fertilized during the first half of the spawning period and was negatively correlated with egg deposition, that movement of age-0 trout from low- to high-angle shorelines increased with fish size, and that survival varied by habitat type and over time in response to flow changes from Glen Canyon Dam.

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