Limnology of the Sawtooth Valley Lakes with Respect to Potential Growth of Juvenile Snake River Sockeye Salmon

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Northwest Science






Northwest Scientfic Association

Publication Date



limnology, Sawtooth Valley Lakes, potential growth, juvenile, Snake River, sockeye salmon

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Recovery efforts for Snake River sockeye salmon were initiated in 1991 in response to a decline in the number of returning adults and listing of this population under the Endangered Species Act. We examined limnological conditions in five nursery lakes within the historical range of this population and emphasized factors that likely affect the growth potential of juvenile sockeye salmon. Results of this sampling were intended to facilitate management decisions concerning strategies for restocking progeny from a capture brood-stock program. Temperature, oxygen, light, chlorophyll, phytoplankton, and zooplankton were sampled in each lake from May through October of 1992. Results from limnological sampling indicated that all five lakes would be suitable for rearing juvenile sockeye, but that the lakes varied considerably in the species composition and abundance of zooplankton. Our results indicated that sockeye salmon would not be limited by oxygen or temperature conditions in any of the five lakes. Light levels were suitable for visual feeding to near bottom depths in three of the lakes (Pettit, Stanley, and Yellow Belly) and through 70-90% of the water column in the other two lakes (Redfish and Alturas Lakes). We ranked the five lakes based on growth potential of juvenile sockeye using published relationships of limnological variables and fish growth. Zooplankton food among lakes resulted in pronounced differences in the growth potential of juvenile sockeye salmon suggesting the zooplankton foraging/bioenergetics model was more suited for predictions of sockeye growth in these systems than the other relationships compared. Although growth potential for juvenile sockeye appeared better in three of the lakes, all five lakes are relatively unproductive. Thus a whole-lake fertilization, similar to nutrient enhancement approaches used in Alaskan and British Columbian sockeye nursery lakes, and the impact of piscivory should be considered before final recommendations for recovery plans are evaluated.


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