Fishing The Spring Runs

We are happy to announce that Wild Fish Conservancy staff are once again hip deep in the Columbia River for our fourth year of commercial fish trap research.

These previous years of research focused on the Columbia River fall fishery. In 2019, WFC is launching a new spring project that began in March and will continue through July, testing the trap on the prized run of spring Chinook, as well as sockeye, summer Chinook, and the large invasive run of American Shad. Beyond testing the trap during different seasons and for new runs of fish, we are also testing out a new design intended to improve our already impressive post-release bycatch survival rates to nearly 100%.

With the addition of a second raft and modified live well, fish are now captured with a completely passive design, eliminating all air exposure, handling, net contact, and overcrowding involved with the commercial process.

This year’s spring and summer studies are funded by the prestigious federal award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: the National Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program Award. With these funds, we are testing the long-term survival of all salmonids that swim through the maze of nets during the spring and summer seasons. In order to accomplish this task, we are once again using PIT tags and the PIT tag arrays at both Bonneville and McNary Dams. Comparing detection rates of fish captured by our different catch methods (our traditional spilling method and our new passive method) to a control group of fish that have not undergone the commercial capture procedure, we are able to document the comparative long term survival of our catch.

After weeks of challenging conditions in April and May battling high flows and abundant debris, we have once again settled into the familiar daily routine of fishing and PIT-tagging with sunny summer skies and calm waters. With the sockeye run moving through, we are pleased to see the gear functioning efficiently and effectively, with over 760 sockeye tagged and released in a lively condition and hundreds already migrating over Bonneville and McNary dams. As the results continue to come in, we look forward to reporting on another successful year and another large step towards developing a sustainable, selective fishing gear.

For a recap of our research in 2018, check out our video: The Fish Trap Moves Forward.

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