Twelve wild adult Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), captured in the tailwaters of Taylor Draw Dam on the White River, Colorado, were implanted with radio transmitters and their movement patterns monitored from 1992 to 1994. The spawning migration of these fish was extensive. In 1993, the only full year of the study, the fish migrated an average of 658 km from the White River to spawning sites in the Yampa or Green rivers and back to the White River. Eight of these fish were translocated in the river upstream of the dam in April 1993. These fish and the 4 others below the dam remained in the river until May 1993. All 12 had migrated down the White River to spawning sites in the Green and Yampa rivers by July 1993. The fish that were located above the dam successfully passed over the dam during their downstream migration. Seven fish migrated upstream toward the Yampa River Canyon spawning site and 5 migrated downstream toward the Green River Desolation/Gray Canyon spawning site. Five of 7 Yampa River fish were found at the spawning site. The other 2 were found 5–8 km downstream of the site. One of 5 Green River fish was found at the spawning site, the other 4 between 16 and 62 km upstream of the site. All fish migrated back to the White River by August 1993 and were found near the dam by October 1993. Two fish were recaptured and translocated above the dam in September 1993. Five fish were located below the dam and 2 above the dam in April 1994. By July 1994 seven of the same fish that had migrated toward the Yampa River in 1993 were found at the Yampa Canyon spawning site. At the same time, 3 of 5 fish that migrated toward the Green River in 1993 were found at the Desolation/Gray Canyon spawning site. This included 2 fish that had been found upstream of the site in 1993.

The 12 fish traveled an average of 6 km d−1 (range: 4–10 km d−1) during the migration period from May through October 1993. Generally, fish moved faster to the spawning site than back from the site to the White River.

These fish moved very little within their home ranges in the White River. Six fish tagged in 1992 moved only 0.1–2.3 km in the tailwater reach below Taylor Draw Dam from September 1992 through April 1993. All fish, after their spawning runs, had moved up to or near the dam by October 1993. These fish were not tracked again until April 1994. Their movement patterns in April 1994 were similar to those observed in April 1993. The greatest amount of fish movement in the White River was displayed by the 8 fish placed above Taylor Draw Dam in April 1993 and the 2 placed in Kenney Reservoir in September 1993. They moved 1.1–40.6 km in the river before and after their spawning migration in spring and autumn 1993.

These spawning migrations suggest that adult Colorado pikeminnow in the White River were recruited from both Green and Yampa river spawning populations and were presumably imprinted to these respective spawning sites. Those fish placed above Taylor Draw Dam established home ranges in habitats previously occupied by Colorado pikeminnow before the dam was completed. They remained there until they migrated downstream during the spawning period. Although we did not study fish passage, our study demonstrates that adult Colorado pikeminnow will use habitat if access is provided. Translocation of wild adult fish into historic but unoccupied habitats may be a valuable recovery option.