Prey selectivity and diel feeding chronology of juvenile chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and coho (O. kisutch) salmon in the Columbia River plume


  • Present address: Robert Schabetsberger, Institute of Zoology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria.



We studied salmon feeding selectivity and diel feeding chronology in the Columbia River plume. Juvenile chinook and coho salmon were caught by trawling at 2–3 h intervals throughout a diel period on three consecutive days (21–23 June 2000) at stations located 14.8 and 37 km offshore from the mouth of the Columbia River. A total of 170 chinook salmon were caught at the inshore and 79 chinook and 98 coho salmon were caught at the offshore station. After each trawl, potential prey were sampled at different depths with 2–3 different types of nets (1-m diameter ring net, bongo net, neuston net). Despite the variability in zooplankton abundance, feeding selectivity was surprisingly constant. Both salmon species fed selectively on larger and pigmented prey such as hyperiid amphipods, larval and juvenile fish, various crab megalopae, and euphausiids. Hyperiid amphipods were abundant in the salmon diets and we hypothesize that aggregations of gelatinous zooplankton may facilitate the capture of commensal hyperiid amphipods. Small copepods and calyptopis and furcilia stages of euphausiids dominated the prey field by numbers, but were virtually absent from salmon diet. Juvenile chinook salmon, with increasing body size, consumed a larger proportion of fish. Stomach fullness peaked during morning hours and reached a minimum at night, suggesting a predominantly diurnal feeding pattern. In general, both chinook and coho salmon appear to be selective, diurnal predators, preying mostly on large and heavily pigmented prey items, in a manner consistent with visually oriented, size-selective predation.