Migratory Patterns of Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Returning to a Large, Free-flowing River Basin

By: , and 



Upriver movements were determined for Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha returning to the Yukon River, a large, virtually pristine river basin. These returns have declined dramatically since the late 1990s, and information is needed to better manage the run and facilitate conservation efforts. A total of 2,860 fish were radio tagged during 2002–2004. Most (97.5%) of the fish tracked upriver to spawning areas displayed continual upriver movements and strong fidelity to the terminal tributaries entered. Movement rates were substantially slower for fish spawning in lower river tributaries (28–40 km d-1) compared to upper basin stocks (52–62 km d-1). Three distinct migratory patterns were observed, including a gradual decline, pronounced decline, and substantial increase in movement rate as the fish moved upriver. Stocks destined for the same region exhibited similar migratory patterns. Individual fish within a stock showed substantial variation, but tended to reflect the regional pattern. Differences between consistently faster and slower fish explained 74% of the within-stock variation, whereas relative shifts in sequential movement rates between “hares” (faster fish becoming slower) and “tortoises” (slow but steady fish) explained 22% of the variation. Pulses of fish moving upriver were not cohesive. Fish tagged over a 4-day period took 16 days to pass a site 872 km upriver. Movement rates were substantially faster and the percentage of atypical movements considerably less than reported in more southerly drainages, but may reflect the pristine conditions within the Yukon River, wild origins of the fish, and discrete run timing of the returns. Movement data can provide numerous insights into the status and management of salmon returns, particularly in large river drainages with widely scattered fisheries where management actions in the lower river potentially impact harvests and escapement farther upstream. However, the substantial variation exhibited among individual fish within a stock can complicate these efforts.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Migratory Patterns of Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Returning to a Large, Free-flowing River Basin
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0123127
Volume 10
Issue 4
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher PLoS ONE
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Country Canada, United States
State Alaska, Yukon Territory
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details