• fishway;
  • Lampetra tridentata ;
  • migration;
  • passage efficiency;
  • phenotype


Low dam passage rates of adult Pacific lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus) during upstream spawning migration have been implicated in the species' steep decline in the interior Columbia River basin. In this 2000–2010 study, we used radiotelemetry to evaluate potential predictors of lamprey passage success at McNary Dam, located ~469 river kilometres (rkm) from the Pacific Ocean. The tagged population included 276 lampreys collected at McNary Dam and 53 collected at Bonneville Dam (rkm 235) that migrated to McNary Dam. McNary Dam passage efficiency was similar for the two samples, with multiyear estimates of 0.65 and 0.75, respectively. Larger-bodied lampreys and those with earlier migration timing were more likely to return to McNary Dam after release, to pass the dam and to be detected upstream from McNary reservoir. Far more lampreys entered the upper Columbia River than the Snake River, suggesting that environmental cues (e.g., water discharge, temperature) or conspecific cues (e.g., pheromone concentrations) affect lamprey distribution above this large confluence. Overall, results indicate that Pacific lamprey passage success at barriers depends on a combination of individual lamprey traits plus seasonal and site-specific effects on behaviour.