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Genetics Program

Auke Creek Salmon Research: 2011 Was a Big Year

Auke Creek weir
Figure 1.  Auke Creek Weir near Juneau, Alaska.  The weir is operated by John Joyce (upper holding pen) with help from Jesse Echave (in stream recording counts), Scott Vulstek (middle holding pen), and Andrew Eller (lower right).
 
 

The Genetics Program at ABL includes science operations at Little Port Walter Marine Station, Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute, and Auke Creek Weir and Research Station. Auke Creek is a 400-m stream that connects the Auke Lake watershed with Auke Bay, an estuarine embayment near Lynn Canal, Southeast Alaska. The stream is on the road system close to Juneau, Alaska.

Each year, thousands of salmon and trout pass through Auke Creek where for over 30 years the National Marine Fisheries Service has operated a counting weir to track both upstream and downstream migration. The year 2011 was a busy year at Auke Creek. In the spring, in addition to other trout and salmon species, 31,000 pink salmon fry, 10,500 coho salmon smolts, and over 32,000 sockeye salmon smolts were counted and sampled at the weir. The coho smolt migration count is the highest we have observed in 30 years of direct monitoring.

The data we collected included size and age sampling that provides information both to long-term monitoring studies and local area management plans. In fall 2011, in addition to char, trout, coho, and sockeye adults, there was a return of 27,000 adult pink salmon to the weir, which were counted and sampled with each fish being handled at least once (on the upstream migration) and sometimes twice (when they completed spawning and died). The total 27,000 fish is the second highest total for adult pink salmon during the more than 30 year time series and is almost three times the long-term average return for Auke Creek pink salmon of 9,891.

The Auke Creek Weir and Research Station is a critical resource and the only weir in the state of Alaska, and one of very few on the West Coast that tracks both juvenile fish outmigration and adult returns, thus providing a very valuable data set for correlating weather and population productivity information over extended time periods. In addition, it has formed the major experimental support for a myriad of graduate research work, enhancement technology development, and long-term genetic studies of the variety of anadromous fish that reside there.

The weir is operated by John Joyce with help from Jesse Echave, Scott Vulstek, and Andrew Eller (Fig. 1). In addition to his studies regarding the effects of climate change on coho salmon, John also has collaborations with researchers at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to study supplementation effects in sockeye salmon, the University of Alaska-Southeast to study the effects of climate change on fish migration, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to monitor salmon productivity.

By Jeff Guyon and John Joyce
 

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