The fish community of the Columbia River Estuary was sampled with trawl, beach seine, and purse seine over an 18 month period during 1980-1981. Seasonality of abundance and species richness in the estuary reflect the timing of migrations and the reproductive cycles of marine and anadromous species. Composition of the fish community and dominant species in the Columbia River estuary are similar to many smaller estuaries in the Pacific Northwest. These similarities reflect the influence of the nearshore marine environment on fish community structure throughout the West Coast as well as the wide geographic distribution and considerable physiological tolerance of many dominant euryhaline species. The distribution of fish assemblages within the Columbia River estuary is influenced by large seasonal variation in river discharge and salinity. Within large areas or salinity zones, species assemblages use different habitats and invertebrate prey. The distribution of abundance and the stomach fullness of fishes vary directly with the density of potential prey. We hypothesize that fish production may be limited by dynamic physical processes that control prey availability or the feeding efficiencies of predators in the highly turbid estuary. © 1990.
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