Reconditioning Snake River B-Run Steelhead Kelts: A Research Report
Steelhead, the anadromous form of rainbow trout, are capable of repeat spawning (iteroparity). Snake River steelhead have historically been classified as A-run and B-run: B-run fish usually spend 2 or more winters in the ocean and are therefore larger than the 1-sea winter A-runs. Current populations and iteroparity rates of wild B-run steelhead in the Snake River system are severely depressed due to the operation of hydroelectric dams and other anthropogenic factors, leading to ESA listing of these stocks and recovery plans. We have been working at a research scale to establish methods for reconditioning Snake River B-run steelhead kelts. Kelt reconditioning involves the capture of post spawn fish, reconditioning of fish in a captive environment, and release of rematuring fish into rivers to spawn naturally. In addition, to address critical uncertainties in kelt reconditioning, we have developed a hatchery model for B-run steelhead kelt reconditioning at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nez Perce Tribe. Hatchery ladder returning steelhead females are non-lethally spawned, reconditioned and held through their next spawning event. Although various issues caused low survival during the first years of the project, recent survival and maturation rates for wild Snake River B-run kelts are similar to those found in Yakima River and Upper Columbia River kelts.
Graham, N.L., Jenkins, S. Everett, R. Branstetter, A. Pierce, and D. Hatch. 2016. Reconditioning Snake River B-run steelhead kelts a research report. Northwest Fish Culture Conference, December 6-8, Grand Mound, WA