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Performance of Subyearling Fall Chinook Salmon Tagged With 8-, 9-, And 12-mm Passive Integrated Transponder Tags in the Snake River

Ken Tiffan, Tobyn Rhodes, Brad Bickford

U.S. Geological Survey, 5501A Cook-Underwood Rd., Cook, WA 98605

Inferences based on tagged individuals from a population are limited in part by the minimum size of fish that can be tagged. Smaller tags allow a greater proportion of a population to be represented by tagging and should reduce potential tag effects on fish performance. We evaluated different performance metrics of juvenile fall Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha tagged with 8-, 9-, and 12-mm PIT tags in the Snake River. We did not find evidence that post-tagging mortality of 45–49-mm-FL fish tagged with 8-mm tags was higher than the post-tagging mortality of larger fish tagged with 9- and 12-mm tags. The incisions of fish tagged with 8-mm tags using 14-guage needles healed faster than those of fish tagged with larger tags using 12-guage needles. For individuals that received 8-mm tags, growth in length and mass was higher for 45–49-mm fish than for 50–59-mm fish and 60-mm and larger fish. Growth of the larger size-classes (50–59 and ≥60 mm) was also generally higher for those tagged with 8-mm tags compared to those tagged with 9- and 12-mm tags, respectively. There were no strong relationships between tag burden (i.e., tag weight expressed as a percentage of fish weight) at the time of tagging and growth metrics for any tag size or fish size-class. Releases made to compare the detection efficiency of the three tag types in the juvenile fish bypass at Lower Granite Dam, Washington, showed that 99–100% of all fish were detected. Survival of fish from rearing areas to Lower Granite Dam generally increased with fish size and varied by year, but there was no strong evidence of a tag size effect. The 8-mm PIT tag allowed us to represent a larger portion (i.e., 6.2–24.1%) of the subyearling fall Chinook Salmon population in the Snake River without compromising fish performance or detectability at the dam.