Friday, April 29, 2011

Wild Salmon Production at the Northwest Corner of the United States

This year we began monitoring wild salmon and steelhead in the Tsoo-Yess River, located at the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula near Neah Bay, Washington.  The goal of the project is to determine how many wild salmon and steelhead juveniles are produced each year in the part of the Tsoo-Yess River upstream of Makah National Fish Hatchery (NFH).  Results from this study will tell us about the ability of the Tsoo-Yess River to support wild salmon and help the USFWS and Makah Tribe determine how to best manage Makah NFH operations while supporting wild fish populations. 

USFWS student intern Ben Leonard checks 
the screw trap for fish
This week we installed a screw trap just a few hundred meters upriver of the hatchery.  A screw trap (see picture) has a rotating cone that captures fish moving downstream.  Fish are held in a live box at the back of the trap where they wait to be removed, identified, and measured by a biologist.  Although it might look a little scary, these traps are actually very gentle on the fish.  On the first 2 days, we captured 18 coho salmon and 3 steelhead smolts, as well as a few coho fry, some juvenile cutthroat trout and rainbow trout/steelhead, 2 sculpins, and 1 lamprey.

Of course, these traps can’t catch every fish migrating downstream, so we have to test how efficient the trap is at catching fish.  To do this, we release marked fish a few hundred meters upriver to see what percentage we catch in the trap.  We put the marked fish in buckets (with aerators) and took them by canoe upriver to the release site (picture below).  Not a bad job on a sunny day!

Ben releases marked fish to check trap efficiency


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Partnering for Conservation

Releasing young kokanee salmon
This week our office participated in the celebratory release of young kokanee salmon into Lake Sammamish tributaries. These fish, along with 14,000 more to be released in coming weeks, were successfully raised with the assistance of our partners at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Quilcene National Fish Hatchery, King County, the Cities of Redmond, Bellevue, Sammamish, and Issaqauh, Trout Unlimited, and the Snoqualmie Tribe in an effort to protect this native fish population from extinction.
Thanks to the mutual dedication and support for the hatchery supplementation program, we are offering this population some short-term insurance while we all work together to restore the kokanee’s home in the Lake Sammamish watershed.

Check out this link to the latest article in the Issaquah Press to learn more about how we are partnering to save Lake Sammamish kokanee from extinction:


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quilcene National Fish Hatchery Is Turning 100 This Year!

Come celebrate Quilcene National Fish Hatchery's 100th anniversary with us on August 20, 2011, from 10 AM to 4 PM. Quilcene National Fish Hatchery (NFH) is located on the east side of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula on Highway 101 two miles south of the town of Quilcene at the confluence of the Big Quilcene River and Penny Creek. 

Quilcene NFH has been in continuous operation since 1911 and has been expanded and improved many times since then. The hatchery currently raises coho salmon which are released in the Big Quilcene River. The hatchery also provides coho salmon eggs and fingerlings to tribal programs. Partnering with several private, state, and Federal agencies, the hatchery has participated in several conservation programs to help recover listed summer chum salmon and Hood Canal winter steelhead, and imperiled Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon.   

Hatchery Complex (pre-1930's).
Note Hwy. 101 passing right through the complex.

Hatchery Complex (post-1930's).
Note new bridge crossing Quilcene River, rerouting Hwy. 101.

Come learn about the hatchery operations and its history. There will be hatchery exhibits, several children’s activities, hatchery tours, and booths from Federal, state, tribal, county and private organizations. Be prepared for a day of fun!

Hatchery Fun Facts:
  • The original 11 acres of land was purchased for $270.
  • By 1917, a truck purchase reduced the need for horses.
  • By 1926, the railroad was abandoned and freight deliveries to Quilcene ceased.
  • Vandalism in 1981 caused the hatchery to start locking their doors.
  • The 2001 Nisqually earthquake damaged hatchery buildings.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Skeleton of the Old Power Plant

The area of Renton, Washington, near Lake Washington has undergone numerous changes over the past 10 years.  One of these changes was the removal of the old Shuffleton Power Plant and its replacement with apartment buildings. Today, about the only thing left of the old power plant is a massive 656-foot-long metal flume which runs along the south shore of Lake Washington and is slowly rusting away. In addition, the flume is only about 1,600 feet from the mouth of the Cedar River, an important natal stream for anadromous salmonids. During plant operation, the flume served as the outflow for water from the power plant.

From January to April, large numbers of Chinook salmon fry leave the Cedar River and rear in the south end of Lake Washington. These fish prefer non-armored shorelines with sand and gravel substrates that have both open beaches and areas with riparian vegetation which provide woody debris and overhanging vegetation.  Unfortunately, the old flume has little of these habitat characteristics. 

Preferred habitat conditions--open beach (left) and riparian vegetation (right)--of
juvenile Chinook salmon in south Lake Washington

Chinook salmon are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and resource managers in the Lake Washington area have been looking for shoreline areas that can be restored. The flume is an obvious choice because it is a large structure close to the Cedar River and is owned by Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).

Juvenile Chinook salmon at night
in Lake Washington
Removal of the flume and other shoreline improvements will occur in late summer of 2011 or 2012.  From January to June 2011, our office will be working with WDNR to conduct snorkel surveys to gather information on juvenile Chinook salmon use under pre-restoration (current) conditions. Surveys are done at night when juvenile Chinook salmon are easier to observe and count accurately. The surveys are being done in three areas: (1) Along the flume wall; (2) an adjacent shoreline that will also be improved; and (3) nearby shoreline in Gene Coulon Park that will serve as a control site. Additional monitoring will occur after the restoration activities have been completed.