Fish Passage Monitoring and Fisheries

Matt Bleich, Tacoma Power: Fish passage at Cushman Hydro Project: Challenges and Updates

These dams are 90 years old and this is the first time there is opportunity for fish passage since they were constructed.

Fish passage work at Little Falls this year – located in between the two dams, very steep grade for fish, with high velocity water flow, made it hard for fish to get up stream.

Needed to do it with minimal impacts to the area, since it’s also culturally viable area to the tribe.

Since the amendments to Little Falls, more fish have been headed upstream of Little Falls. Coho have been showing up in good numbers, right up to the fish trap at Cushman 1. We’ve also seen a few steelhead come up the river so it’s promising to know they can get upstream.

It’ll take the next year to find out fully how Little Falls improves fish passage.

Florian Leischner, Tacoma Power: 

We’re not fish managers but the work we do sometimes comes close to fish management.

History of Lake Cushman includes more than 100 years of resident fish stockings. In 1899, Lake Cushman had 2,500 brook trout.

Fish eegs, sea-run cut throat, Hood Canal sea-run cutthroat were all stocked in Lake Cushman. Since 2000s, Cushman fisheries have been targeting self-sustaining populations, so less stocking.

At the same time at Lake Kokanee – from 2001-present, the state first, now Tacoma, put in several thousand rainbow trout (4,000-9,000) for a put-and-take fishery.

Surveys of the Lake Cushman in 2012 show that bull trout were the biggest but the population was Salish suckers. Same for 2013. Few bull trout but ginormous fish.

So what is the recreational fishery targeting? Just a few species: Kokanee, cutthroat, bull trout but then occasionally get a resident chinook.

When Sockeye come back, and then have Kokanee in the lake, it’s going to be a challenge to determine what to pass, what not to pass. Nightmare for the co-managers too (tribes and state) to keep the Kokanee fishery alive.

Future monitoring:

New lake Kokanee creel survey will be in 2019, plus fish passage and upper North Fork Skokomish basin disposition monitoring will take place. It’d be great to get 100,000 Sockeye in the lake.