2 salt, 3 salt...?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Kaiserman, Oct 13, 2012.

  1. Kaiserman content

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    I was talking to someone about the size and age of steelhead, and wanted clarification on the term 'salt' when it came to steelhead. For example, I always thought that 2 salt referred to a steelhead that had been in the ocean about two years, and then returned to spawn. 3 salt three years, and so on (though I don't think it goes much beyond that around here.

    What I "heard" was that a 2 salt, was a fish that came in to spawn (at 2 yrs old, 3, whatever) and went back to the ocean, then came back to spawn again. I don't think that's how it is. I think the first paragraph above is how it goes.

    What you say? Am I right?
  2. Derek Day Rockyday

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    salt=years spent in salt water before returning to spawn
  3. Smalma Active Member

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    Salts equal summers spend in the ocean feeding before returning to spawn for the first time.

    A 2-salt winter run as smolt might leave its home river in May spend the next year, the following spring/summer/fall in the ocean before returning that winter well in advance of the second May following smolting.

  4. Kaiserman content

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    Okay, that's what I thought.

    Although I don't think it happens much (if at all) in the Snake tribs, is there a term I can tell my buddy for a returning steelhead spawning a second time? Or is there such a label?
  5. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Re-spawner, altho they are not very common in the Snake because of the extraordinary mortality on downstream adult migrants. Figure maybe 12% respawners among wild PS steelhead. You'd be lucky to get 3% on the Snake from what I've heard.

  6. Kaiserman content

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    Wow, 3%? I think that might big kinda high, lol. I've been told by the bios that fish who bypass the river they are suppose to go up, then try to come back down just one or two dams, rarely make it back. Not that I'm saying your wrong, but that's why I'm wondering if it's even 3%.

    However, I would of thought it would be higher than 12% on the coastal rivers, like 20 -25%. I wonder if it's higher in Alaska and Canada?
  7. Smalma Active Member

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    Dave -
    Across the species range and depending on the year I have seen annual repeat rates from less than 1% to as high as 75%. As SG said the lower rates on for summer run populations migrate long distances and spending extend periods in freshwater. As you guessed the higher rates usually are found in populations from areas such as Alaska and Russia - the extreme range of the species.

    The repeat spawning rate is typically calculated as the portion of the returning run that had spawned before. Thus fishing/harvest (at least on the pre-spawn fish) has little impact the portion of the population that are repeat spawners. It should be noted that a population with a 50% repeat spawning rate means that a 1,000 spawners (1/2 rpeats) is producing only 500 recruits the next generation - meaning that the population is not very productive.

    Bob Triggs likes this.
  8. T Dave Member

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    We get about a 3% return on repeat spawners to the Thompson also Steve.
  9. Kaiserman content

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    Great info Smalma, thanks. Now, not to shift gears too much, but is there any way to determine if a fish has, or has returned to spawn, twice? For a lack of better words, is there an "educated guess" that a fish may be back for round two? What I mean is, say a 20lb fish, Is that probably just a 3 or four salt, or is it possible it might be round two? What about a 25lb fish?

    Look, I know you aren't God and can't say for certain, but is it possible? Or are fish that are on round two of spawning typically over 25lbs? <- Again, probably where it was caught (westside, i.e. AK verses eastside)...?
  10. Smalma Active Member

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    Dave -
    The fish that survive to spawn a second or even third time pay a pretty heavy price to do so. Wild winters here western Washington might return as a 2 salt at 8 to 11#s When that fish returns to spawn the next year it will have gain only an additional 2 or 3#s while its sibling return to spawn the first time as a 3-salt will typically will weight 14 to 20#s. The reason of course is the lost of weight during its spawning as well as the time lost on the feeding grounds as it spends the 3 months or so in the river not feeding. As result a 10# fish might only weight 6 or 7#s when it gets back to the salt.

    The price the summer fish pay can be even heavier! Unless the fish are skip spawners (spawn every second year) they have so little time in the salt to recovery from the rigors of spawning that many physically can not regain fats/oils to carry them through their time in the river to spawning. As a result they may re-absorb the eggs/milt sacks to stay alive.

    The result of all this the vast majority of the truly large steelhead (especially the males) are first time spawners - typcially older and faster growing than most of the population.

    In some cases with experience one can tell that a steelhead has spawn before by its physical appearance. Much like stunted trout the steelhead returning to spawn a second time wil have fins and heads larger than expected for their body size - again this is more so with the males.

    Bob Triggs likes this.
  11. Kaiserman content

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    I had no idea that the fish may reabsorb their eggs/milt to survive, if need be.

    Once again, great info. Thanks for sharing.
  12. BaldBob Member

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    The info Smalmo gave you confirms what I have read. BTW fishery bios can read the life history of a steelhead (length of time in fresh water, length of time in salt water, whether it is a respawner, etc) by reading the pattern of "growth rings" ( much like the growth rings on a tree) on a scale taken from near the lateral line.
  13. LBC nymphing beads with a spey pole.

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    we watched a PIT tagged respawn fish come all the way back up to the Methow for round two. talk about amazing. The fish was tagged as a juvenile, came back as a two salt I believe and then came back two years later. crazy. PIT tag science is great stuff.
  14. Klickrolf Active Member

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    That is excellent proof of repeat spawners making it back to the Methow. Interesting topic for sure. We seem to assume that a repeat spawner should be larger but Smalma expained it well.

    Something to consider, smolt size upon outmigration. Screw-traps on the Klickitat caught smolts (chrome silver & fat) over 16" every year (during my involvement). I think these large smolts have a huge advantage. Generally too big for the seagulls, too big for mergansers, too big for pike-minnows...and a huge headstart for feeding on larger prey in the ocean. The largest returning fish are likely not repeat spawners but fish that outmigrated large.

    Another interesting observation is that very few male steelhead survive to spawn again in the Klickitat and Yakima rivers. I'm not aware of a single live outmigrating male kelt ever identified in the Klickitat or Yakima.