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Physiological Comparisons of Steelhead Kelts Emigrating from the Situk River, AK and Clearwater River, ID

Jun 7, 2016


The physiological status of migrating steelhead kelts (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from the Situk River, Alaska, and two tributaries of the Clearwater River, Idaho, was evaluated to explore potential differences in post-spawning survival related to energy reserves. Blood plasma samples were analyzed for metrics related to nutritional and osmotic status, and samples of white muscle tissue collected from recent mortalities at weirs were analyzed for proximate constituents. Female kelts from the Situk River had significantly higher plasma cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and calcium concentrations, all of which suggested higher lipid and energy stores. Additional support for energy limitation in kelts was provided by evaluating the presence of detectable proteins in the plasma. Most all kelts sampled from the Situk River populations had detectable plasma proteins, in contrast to kelts sampled from the Clearwater River tributary populations where 27 % of kelts from one tributary, and 68 % of the second tributary were below the limits of detection. We found proximate constituents of kelt mortalities were similar between the Situk and Clearwater River populations, and the lipid fraction of white muscle averaged 0.1 and 0.2 %. Our findings lend support to the hypothesis that energetic limitations likely affect post-spawn survival in the Clearwater River kelts.


Zachary Penney, Christine Moffitt, Bryan Jones, and Brian Marston


Penney, Z.P., C.M. Moffitt, B. Jones, and B. Marston. 2016. Physiological comparisons of steelhead kelts emigrating from the Situk River, AK and Clearwater River, ID. Environmental Biology of Fishes 99(5):487-498. Online at



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Journal Article