Mike McHenry, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe
Five years ago we struggled to try and figure out the fish question but we’ve come a long way and a lot of great work is going on.
My talk will focus on techniques we’re using to get at fish coming in and fish coming out, some of which haven’t really been used in Washington before. Also, I’ll give a species update.
Traditional methods to count fish have gone out the window – typically visual and redd counts. They are using Sonar, the adult capture weir and some selective visual in the smaller tributaries.
Largest flowing fish weir in the northwest is being used – 60 meters wide, located at River Mile 5.9. It is used during spring and fall. It captures fish for counting, determine if hatchery or wild, species, tagging and for management plan for broodstock operations.
This is the fourth year we’re using it. Successful with chinook and pink salmon and help with conservation planning.
SONAR technique – it’s like a camera to capture fish swimming in the river but by using sound. Primarily used in Canada for sockeye. Pros include it’s not affected by turbidity and can count fish. Complimentary to the weir.
Comparing to visual counts of fish redds prior to dam removal, it worked really well.
Juvenile enumeration – an 8-foot rotary screw trap on the river has been helpful and getting counts of pink, chum, chinook and coho salmon.
Species by Species – bulltrout are a listed speices and didn’t know a lot about them but that the population was chopped up by the dam. The weir has been successful though as 25 BT were caught. BT are typically first natural re-colonizers.
Snorkel survey conducted in 2007 and 2008 did a good job of getting a baseline of the bulltrout.
Pink salmon – historically the most abundant species in the river. They’ve been impacted the most by the dams. Pre project population was 100-200 (wild) adults.
Adults captured at the weir in 2011 were spawned and taken to the hatchery on Hood Canal.
Sockeye – immediately impacted by installation of dams since their population was focused at Lake Sutherland, above the dams. There is work to compare them to today’s Lake Sutherland kokoanee population.
Chum Salmon – predam removal population was low – 500 -1,200 adults (wild).
Chinook salmon – predam removal population was about 2000 fish on average (hatchery). Since it’s a listed population, its required to be part of hatchery program. Releasing from the hatchery on site.
Big news – King salmon have been observed in the park and Juvenile chinook observed in the park as well recently!
Coho salmon – 2K to 5K adults, pre dam removal (hatchery). Hard to count those like Chum.
A group of about 700 fish were tagged and released between the dams. 60 percent of the fish fell back over the dam but the good news is that we were able to account for nearly 100 redds or nests they created in the middle river – main stem, indian creek and little river.
Good news also that juvenile coho are well distributed in the middle river and tributaries and are making their way to Lake Sutherland.
Steelhead – pre project estimates 200-500 adults. SONAR was used to get estimate but don’t have numbers from that yet. Saw a lot of steelhead were going back to the state’s hatchery. So they captured them, radio tagged them and released them into Little River and Indian Creek, the tribs of the middle river. They liked that habitat and immediately spawned. Tribe was able to track them out of the system.
In conclusion – we don’t have all the answers. It’s still early in the game but I’d say the fish are showing us the way and it’s game on for them.