• Quantity and quality of freshwater rearing habitat in relation to juvenile Pacific salmon abundance in the Kulukak River, Alaska

      Coleman, Jesse M.; Sutton, Trent; Zimmerman, Christian; Adkison, Milo (2012-12)
      Monitoring of freshwater habitat and its influence on stream-rearing fish is essential for recognizing and mitigating the impacts of human- and climate-induced changes. For the purposes of developing a monitoring program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, densities and habitat relationships of juvenile coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch and sockeye salmon O. nerka were estimated in two tributaries of the Kulukak River, Alaska, in July 2010. Multiple-pass depletion electrofishing was used to estimate density in a random sample of habitat units belonging to one of four categorical habitat classes. Regression methods were also used to quantify the physical habitat associations of juvenile coho and sockeye salmon density in the study areas. Densities of juvenile coho and sockeye salmon ranged from 0.22 fish-m⁻² in West Fork riffles and 0.05 fish·m⁻² East Fork riffles to 2.22 fish M⁻² and 1.32 fish-m⁻² in East Fork eddy drop zones (EDZ), respectively. The largest proportions of freshwater habitat were comprised of run (71 %) and EDZ habitats (44%) in the East Fork and West Fork, respectively. Regression coefficients for coho and sockeye salmon densities were positive with respect to proportional areas of in-stream overhanging vegetation (0.78 and 0.74, respectively), large wood (0.99 and 0.97, respectively), and undercut banks (0.99 and 0.02, respectively). Conversely, coho and sockeye salmon density was negatively related to depth ( -1.45 and -0.52, respectively) and velocity ( -2.45 and -1.67, respectively). Although substrate size was negatively related to sockeye salmon density ( -0.40), this variable had a weak positive relationship with coho salmon density (0.08). These findings suggest that EDZ habitats are important for juvenile coho and sockeye salmon during summer rearing and in-stream cover is an essential component of these rearing habitats.