Daily DrakeColumbia Mouth copy

Columbia Mouth copyThanks to a new report from ecologists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the ocean’s impact on species survival—such as juvenile steelhead and salmon leaving the Columbia and entering the Pacific—is one step closer to being solved.

“The study provides a snapshot of salmon behavior at a crucial time, after a migration from their freshwater birthplaces to the ocean, a journey often hundreds of miles long,” says a report summary from the Columbia Basin Bulletin. “Depending on the species and their age, the fish generally travel anywhere from 20 to 60 miles a day, carried by the current as they navigate much of the journey backward—tail first.”

Previous studies indicated that most salmonids exiting the Columbia River headed north up the coast of Washington State. The new study reveals that while many salmon, especially the youngest, head north, others go straight out to the ocean, and large numbers head south. Thus, the number of salmonids safely reaching the ocean may have been undercounted in previous studies, since researchers focused their monitoring efforts toward the north.

Another notable finding was that the biggest, strongest, fastest fish in the study—steelhead—were most likely to become lunch for predators upon entering the ocean as juveniles: “The team did not examine why. One possibility is those fish are more vulnerable to birds like terns and cormorants, since steelhead swim closer to the surface than chinook salmon.”

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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