Bowersox, B.J., Hargrove, J.S., Copeland, T., Campbell, M.R.

Publication Date

21 November 2022

Publication Name

North American Journal of Fisheries Management

Tuesday September 12, 2023

Management of hatchery and wild stocks of steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss within the same watershed requires careful consideration when management objectives include the use of the hatchery stock to meet fishery objectives while maintaining the genetic integrity of coexisting wild stocks. This scenario can be further complicated when management objectives for the hatchery stock include supplementation of natural production. The lower Clearwater River in Idaho provided an ideal location to evaluate hatchery steelhead genetic influence within a drainage with separate wild steelhead and supplementation management emphasis areas. We collected 813 genetic samples from wild juvenile steelhead from two sample years in 10 tributaries to the lower Clearwater River to explore genetic structure and assess hatchery influence. Overall, levels of genetic diversity of wild groups were comparable with those observed elsewhere in the Snake River basin. Estimates of effective population size of sample tributaries ranged from 22 to 198 spawners, with a median of 84. All but two tributaries had >50 spawners, and evidence of natural gene flow from other stocks was observed. Results of the study display three zones of hatchery influence in the lower Clearwater River: (1) no influence in lower tributaries with wild steelhead emphasis, (2) moderate influence in wild steelhead tributaries in close proximity to the hatchery facility, and (3) significant influence in hatchery-supplementation tributaries. Interestingly, a number of wild steelhead reporting groups from elsewhere in the Snake River basin were observed in the assignments of study fish, suggesting movement of wild steelhead among larger drainage areas. Techniques outlined in this study can be used to monitor future hatchery influence in the Clearwater River drainage, track historic versus contemporary genetic influence in the drainage, and apply to other watersheds with hatchery and wild steelhead management objectives.

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