To assess freshwater habitat requirements of juvenile anadromous cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarki, we measured habitat preference and growth rates of young-of-the-year (YOY) and 1- to 2-year-old fish confined to either pools or riffles in Husdon Creek, British Columbia, during 1999. YOY preferred pools to riffles in habitat-preference experiments, despite normally occurring at lower densities in pools. YOY grew in both pools and riffles when experimentally confined to either habitat, but growth rates were higher in pools. Larger juvenile cutthroat trout, on average, grew in pools, but consistently lost weight in riffles, indicating that pools are a habitat preference for YOY but a requirement for larger fish. A bioenergetic cost-benefit analysis (based on swimming costs and energy intake from invertebrate drift) indicates that energetics alone are sufficient to account for avoidance of riffles by larger cutthroat trout, without having to invoke greater predation risk in shallow habitats. Energetics modeling demonstrates that the smaller size and energetic needs of YOY allow exploitation of habitats (e.g., pocket pools in riffles) that are unavailable to larger fish.
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