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Brief Assessment of Salmonids and Stream Habitat Conditions in Snake River Tributaries of Asotin, Whitman and Garfield Counties in Washington: March 2001-June 2003

Category: Fish/Shellfish Research and Management - Fish/Shellfish Research

Date Published: February 2004

Number of Pages: 173

Author(s): Glen Mendel, Jeremy Trump, Chris Fulton, and Mike Gembala


Little documentation exists regarding stream habitat conditions or salmonid abundance and distribution in many of the small tributaries of the Snake River, or George Creek, within Asotin, Garfield and Whitman counties of Washington. This project is an extension and continuation of the brief assessments of salmonids and their habitats in Asotin County (Mendel et al. 2001). The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) entered into a cooperative effort with the Asotin, Pomeroy, Palouse, and Whitman conservation districts to conduct brief assessments of several small streams that are tributaries of the Snake River, or in the George Creek watershed of Asotin Creek, to begin development of baseline information about fish and their habitat conditions. The study streams included Tenmile, Couse and George creeks, and their tributaries, in Asotin County, Meadow and Deadman creeks, and their tributaries, in Garfield County, and Wawawai, Steptoe, Almota, Penawawa and Alkali Flat creeks, and their tributaries, in Whitman County.

WDFW submitted a proposal to the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board for partial funding of this project for 2001 and 2002. The fieldwork was later extended through June 2003. The Conservation Districts provided cost share by contributing services (by obtaining authorization for access from private landowners or providing landowner contact information) or materials (temperature monitors). WDFW provided substantial cost share in the form of goods and services (with many donated man-hours) for the fieldwork, as well as the data summarization and report preparation.

Our brief assessment efforts consisted of the following:

1) in April or May we conducted steelhead spawning surveys, took streamflow measurements, and deployed temperature monitors;

2) in summer or early fall we electrofished various sites to determine fish distribution and relative abundance, downloaded temperature monitors, and took streamflow measurements;

3) in fall we retrieved temperature monitors and took streamflow measurements;

4) we also developed and conducted a habitat survey during the spawning surveys (as a late addition to our other efforts). We also collected tissue samples from some adult or juvenile steelhead to begin assessing genetic characteristics of these populations.

The streams in this study are mostly on privately owned lands and generally have low stream flows (usually < 1.5 cfs) during summer and fall. Maximum temperatures are often marginal during summer, and some areas have temperatures that are lethal to salmonids. Passage problems exist on several streams.

Steelhead/rainbow trout were found in nearly every stream sampled, although in some cases they were in very low abundance. We were unable to confirm steelhead spawning in Steptoe, Meadow, or Alkali Flat creeks. We found higher than expected steelhead spawning abundance in Tenmile, George and Almota creeks. Steelhead production in Penawawa, Deadman and Wawawai is likely quite low.

We make recommendations regarding needed additional monitoring of fish use and habitat conditions in these streams for the future.