Preliminary evaluation of the behavior and movements of adult spring Chinook salmon in the Chehalis River, southwestern Washington, 2014

Open-File Report 2017-1004
Prepared in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
By: , and 



Recent interest in flood control and restoration strategies in the Chehalis River Basin has increased the need to understand the current status and ecology of spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Spring Chinook salmon have the longest exposure of all adult Chinook salmon life histories to the low-flow and high water temperature conditions that typically occur during summer. About 100 adult spring Chinook salmon were found dead in the Chehalis River in July and August 2009. Adult Chinook salmon are known to hold in cool-water refugia during warm summer months, but the extent to which spring Chinook salmon might use thermal refugia in the Chehalis River is unknown. A preliminary evaluation of the movements and temperature exposures of adult spring Chinook salmon following their return to the Chehalis River was conducted using radiotelemetry and transmitters equipped with temperature sensors. A total of 12 spring Chinook salmon were captured, radio-tagged, and released in the main-stem Chehalis River between May and late June 2014. Tagged fish were monitored from freshwater entry through the spawning period using a combination of fixedsite monitoring locations and mobile tracking.

Water temperature and flow conditions in the main-stem Chehalis River during 2014 were atypical compared to historical averages. Mean monthly water temperatures between March and August 2014 were higher than any decade since 1960 and mean monthly discharge was 90–206 percent of the discharge in previous years. Overall, 92 percent of the tagged fish were detected, with a mean of 102 d in the detection history of tagged fish. Seven tagged fish (58 percent) moved upstream, either shortly after release (5–8 d, 57 percent), or within about a month (34–35 d, 29 percent). One fish (14 percent) remained near the release location for 98 d before moving upstream. The final fates for the seven fish that moved upstream following release included six fish that were assigned a fate of spawner and one fish with an unknown fate. Tagged fish showed limited movements during the peak water temperatures in July and August, and were not frequently detected at sites where water temperatures exceeded 21 °C. The mouths of the Skookumchuck and Newaukum Rivers were commonly used by tagged fish for extended periods during peak water temperatures and study fish with a fate of spawner were last detected in these tributaries.

This pilot study represents a substantial contribution to the understanding of spring Chinook salmon in the Chehalis River Basin, and provides information for the design and execution of future evaluations. The water temperatures and flow conditions during the 2014 study period were not typical of the historical conditions in the basin and the numbers of tagged fish monitored was relatively low, so results should be interpreted with those cautions in mind.

Suggested Citation

Liedtke, T.L., Hurst, W.R., Tomka, R.G., Kock, T.J., and Zimmerman, M.S., 2017, Preliminary evaluation of the behavior and movements of adult spring Chinook salmon in the Chehalis River, southwestern Washington, 2014: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017-1004, 35 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendix A. Water Temperatures in the Chehalis River, Southwestern Washington, Summer
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Preliminary evaluation of the behavior and movements of adult spring Chinook salmon in the Chehalis River, southwestern Washington, 2014
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2017-1004
DOI 10.3133/ofr20171004
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description iv, 35 p.
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Chehalis River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details