Starting in July, state and tribal fish biologists will be testing live-fish trapping gear on a portion of the Okanogan River, as part of a long-term effort to improve fishing with planned hatchery production.
The cooperative project of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Colville Confederated Tribes is part of preliminary research for the Tribes' Chief Joseph Fish Hatchery, which is scheduled to begin production by 2011.
“We are testing live-capture gear to collect chinook salmon broodstock for the hatchery,” explained WDFW research biologist Charmane Ashbrook. “We’re using tangle nets, beach seines, and shoreline-anchored net traps, so we don’t harm other salmon and trout that may also be captured.”
The traps will be set at the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers near Brewster and at three other locations upstream to the Canada border. Trapping will be conducted in one- to two-week periods in July, August, September and October. Some of the trapping will be done at night to boost success and avoid anglers.
“Our research traps will be marked with bright orange signs to let sport fishers and others on the river know what’s going on,” Ashbrook said. “Many fishers will recall our first research step last season when we placed radio tags on salmon to learn movement and holding patterns. Some fishers helped us by returning those tags with catch locations and dates. We learned from that effort where to place these broodstock collection traps.”
Some of the first trapping will occur at the mouth of the Okanogan River below the lowest Highway 97 bridge, where salmon fishing will open July 1. The July 1 fishing opening, recently announced by WDFW, was set to keep the season consistent with adjacent Columbia River fishing (for details see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations).
Ashbrook said some of the captured salmon also may be equipped with jaw tags before being released. If fishers harvest a jaw-tagged salmon, the tag should be returned, with the date and location of catch, to a WDFW or Tribes office, or by calling 360-902-2240 or 509-634-2113.
Upper Columbia summer/fall chinook salmon mixed-stock populations are currently considered healthy, but hatchery production is key to meet high fishing demand. Salmon produced from the future tribal hatchery will provide additional fishing opportunities for both tribal and sport fishers.
“This summer’s capture gear study will help us increase the genetic diversity of the broodstock we work with at the new hatchery so we’re not just relying on those fish that return to the hatchery,” said Joe Peone, Fish and Wildlife Department director for the Colville Confederated Tribes. “Since we’ll be marking the hatchery fish with adipose fin clips, it may also enable us to offer additional selective fishing and further increase conservation of wild salmon.”
The study is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) through mitigation and fish-recovery directives of the Northwest Power Act.