Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: California
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wilzbach,M., M.J. Ashenfelter, S.J. Ricker. 2012. Movement of Resident Rainbow Trout Transplanted below a Barrier to Anadromy. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 141:2, 294-304.


We tracked the movement of resident coastal rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus that were experimentally transplanted below a migration barrier in a northern California stream. In 2005 and 2006, age-1 and older rainbow trout were captured above a 5-m-high waterfall in Freshwater Creek and individually marked with passive integrated transponder tags. Otolith microchemistry confirmed that the above-barrier trout were the progeny of resident rather than anadromous parents, and genetic analysis indicated that the rainbow trout were introgressed with cutthroat trout O. clarkii. At each of three sampling events, half of the tagged individuals (n = 22 and 43 trout in 2005 and 2006, respectively) were released 5 km downstream from the waterfall (approximately 10 km upstream from tidewater), and an equal number of tagged individuals were released above the barrier. Tagged individuals were subsequently relocated with stationary and mobile antennae or recaptured in downstream migrant traps, or both, until tracking ceased in October 2007. Most transplanted individuals remained within a few hundred meters of their release location. Three individuals, including one rainbow trout released above the waterfall, were last detected in the tidally influenced lower creek. Two additional tagged individuals released above the barrier were found alive in below-barrier reaches and had presumably washed over the falls. Two of seven tagged rainbow trout captured in downstream migrant traps had smolted and one was a presmolt. The smoltification of at least some individuals, coupled with above-barrier “leakage” of fish downstream, suggests that above-barrier resident trout have the potential to exhibit migratory behavior and to enter breeding populations of steelhead (anadromous rainbow trout) within the basin.