Category Archives: Trout and Salmon

Fishing Flatfish for Fall Salmon


Fishing Flatfish for Fall Salmon
by Yakima Pro Cody Herman
from The Fishing Wire

As the nights become cooler and the rains begin to fall, salmon begin their upward migration to the waters where they were born in hopes of creating future generations. These crisp fall days also push anglers off the big open water and into the smaller tributaries in search of kings and coho.

The past several years have introduced many new techniques to salmon fishermen across the country. However, one lure seems to produce year in and year out: the venerable Flatfish -20’s to T-60 sized Flatfish have produced consistent action for anglers for decades. From backtrolling smaller rivers to casting and retrieving, the Flatfish continues to be one of the most versatile lures in a salmon angler’s tackle box.

To be better prepared for the fall salmon season, let’s go through the keys of successfully utilizing Flatfish.

Size: Flatfish are commonly used for Chinook, Coho and Chum Salmon. Chinook especially seem to key in on the heavy thump and action created from this lure. In selecting the proper size, one must first determine how their Flatfish will be rigged:

Flatline, lead dropper or behind a diver. If simply flatlining, knowing the depth each size of Flatfish can dive is important. While MagLips are designed for faster currents and deeper water, the wide action of a Flatfish will dive shallower but give off a heavy vibration. By adding a lead dropper or a diver, an angler can fish deeper holes with smaller sized flatfish if the fish seem to be keying in on a specific size or action. In most cases the M-2 and T-50 sizes seem to be the most popular among fishermen.

Color: Every angler has their favorite color. And, in turn, so do the fish. One color may be lights out on your home river, but may not work as well on a different system. The best line to remember is: “Never argue with the fish!”

Always start your day with a good spread of colors. Figure out which colors the fish seem to be reacting to and lock down your colors for the rest of the day! However, as the sun gets high, cloud cover comes in or the fog rolls through, a salmon’s color preference may change quickly!

Also, on heavily pressured systems, try to use colors the fish have yet to see during the day. If everyone is running red/gold…try green/chrome. Give the fish a different look! As these salmon make their way upstream, the rods and cones in their eyes will change, just like their physical appearance. This means fish will key in on different colors depending on how long they have been in fresh water.

To keep things simple, choose colors with variations of red and green, solid colors and metallics. But…always have a couple colors that you think are “off the wall” and no salmon in their right mind would bite…that color may end up being your hot lure one day!

Scent: The larger Flatfish in M-2 to T-60 have a large enough lip and surface area to allow anglers to “wrap” bait on the bottom of the lure to add a consistent scent trail.Natural bait ranging from tuna to roe, sardines, herring and more have all been used successfully.

One new product that has gained a lot of traction among West Coast fishermen is called “Fish Nip” from Pro-Cure. This Tuna based bait stores easily in tackle boxes and remains fresh for weeks on end. It is a bait that an angler can add their favorite oils to enhance their Flatfish with a scent that lasts for hours. The most important thing to remember regardless of the wrap you use…a little goes a long way! Try not to wrap too much bait onto a Flatfish. These lures have been designed to create a fish-catching action. Adding too much weight can alter the action.

Flatfish have been a staple among salmon anglers not only because they can produce bites in difficult conditions, but because of their consistency. There are many techniques fishermen use to illicit a bite from a fish that can be difficult to catch because of its “one track mind” during the Fall months. Diversifying your approach is always encouraged…but don’t forget about Flatfish!

River Coho Salmon

Casting Weighted Spinners For River Coho Salmon

By Yakima Baits Pro Buzz Ramsey
from The Fishing Wire

River Coho Salmon on a Weighted Spinners


Although the timing varies by region and river system, this is the month many Northwest, BC, Alaskan and Great Lake anglers start thinking about targeting coho salmon as they begin their run toward the river habitat or hatchery that produced them. (Scott Haugen Photo)

Coho, sometimes called silver salmon, average seven to nine pounds in size with some strains reaching 15 pounds or more. In all regions, any coho salmon that weighs in at 20 pounds or more is considered a lifetime trophy. The current world record sport caught coho salmon was taken in 1989 from, surprisingly, the Salmon River in New York State at 33 pounds 4 ounces. In 2012 a coho salmon was caught-and-released from the same New York river that (based on measurements prior to release) might have weighed in at 34 pounds.

And while coho can be caught any number of ways when returning to their natal stream, casting weighted spinners is one fishing method seldom overlooked by anglers.

The most common way to fish a spinner in rivers is to cast out, across and slightly upstream and reel it back to you with a retrieve speed that keeps it working near bottom. If the water is deep, you should allow your spinner sink near bottom before starting your retrieve. Fished this way, the river current will swing your spinner downstream through the fish-holding water. Once your spinner swings in near shore, it’s time to reel in and cast again.

You’ll be much more successful if you don’t get caught up in a steady, ridged, retrieve mode. Let your spinner work with the current. For example, if you feel a burst of water grab your lure, slow down or momentarily stop retrieving and let it work. Spinners are the most effective when slowly retrieved, as slow as you can, and within a foot or two of the bottom. Strikes are usually definite, but some fish will just stop the spinning blade so, if in doubt, set the hook.

In addition to allowing your spinner to work with the current, you can sometimes tease these fish into biting by working your spinner in an erratic fashion with lots of starts and stops, speed-ups and slow-downs, even changing the angle of your retrieve can sometimes produce results.

In extreme clear water, where upstream-looking fish might spook when seeing you, upstream casting can be the “go to” spinner method. Easy, position yourself within casting range of the fish-holding water and cast at an upstream angle. If the water is shallow, begin your retrieve as or just before your spinner hits the water, which can help you avoid hang ups.

After an upstream cast, especially when the water is shallow, reel fast as possible until you’ve picked up all slack line and begin to feel the resistance of the spinning blade; then slow down your retrieve speed and work your lure just above bottom.

Another productive technique is downstream casting, which works best on wide holes or tail-outs. Cast your spinner out, across and at a downstream angle. Since, the current is moving away from you, it requires a slow or no retrieve, as your spinner swings through the holding water.

When the fish are in, confirmed by vast numbers visible in clear water or due to them sometimes jumping, you may think a fast limit is a sure thing. And while you may quickly tag out (and I hope you do) realize that these fish can be finicky about what spinner size, style and color they’ll respond to. Coho salmon are famous for sometimes turning up their nose at nearly every offering but then going crazy (as in a fish-feeding frenzy) after only one cast with the right lure or color. My advice: try different offerings and let the fish tell you what they like.

Try Tipping: while tipping is a common practice among bass and walleye anglers, the trick is often overlooked by those chasing salmon. With spinners, what works is to tip the hook of your spinner with a short section (a one inch piece might be all you need) pinched from a scent-filled worm – like a PowerBait or Gulp! worm. And while different worm colors can work, what often adds to success is to hang a one-inch section of a worm in fluorescent pink from your hook – just let it hang straight back.

Spinners are available in an amazing array of weights, sizes and colors. For coho salmon, the most popular weights include the one quarter, one-third (3/8) and one-half ounce sizes – it all depends on water depth and fish preference. Some of the popular names include the Flash Glo and Rooster Tail. If you’re on a budget consider the Bud’s spinner. Keep in mind that regulations might require the use of a single, rather than a treble hook, when fishing salmon in freshwater rivers.

Although salmon will respond to solid metal finishes like nickel, brass or copper, coho may prefer lures featuring a combination of color and reflective metal. Spinners having fluorescent chartreuse, pink, green, blue, black, orange or red added to their makeup should be included in your arsenal. Remember, these fish can be fickle as the stock market so take along a wide assortment of different spinners, sizes and colors.

While both bait cast and spinning rod and reel outfits work, many anglers (including me) prefer to use a spinning rod and reel when tossing blades. The reason: spinning reels facilitate the casting of sometimes light-weight spinner sizes and, at least for me, better deal with the fast starts, stops, slow downs, and speed ups associated with fishing a spinner.

When it comes to fishing rods, eight and a half to nine foot rods in medium to medium-heavy actions are the most popular for spinner casting. Most anglers will combine these with medium size spinning reels capable of holding 140 yards of 10 to 14 pound monofilament line.

Likely due to a spinner’s sonic vibration, coho salmon respond to spinners by striking them savagely. Their built-in weight makes spinner casting easy while their vibration-producing blades attract fish in waters ranging from stagnant to fast moving. In short, the right spinner style and color will produce almost anywhere coho salmon hold.

Journeys of One Atlantic Salmon

The Mind-Boggling Journeys of One Atlantic Salmon
By John Holyoke
from The Fishing Wire

Charlie swims along his journey


“Charlie” the Atlantic salmon (right) swims among other salmon in a pool of the Sandy River in western Maine. Charlie is a repeat spawner, and was captured twice at Waterville’s Lockwood Dam, exactly two years apart. Photo Casey Clarke/Maine Department of Marine Resources

Your morning commute to work might be hectic and harrowing, but before you start feeling sorry for yourself consider the journeys that Charlie — the name given to a soon-to-be-famous Atlantic salmon — has taken over the past few years.

Charlie recently was captured in a fish lift at the Lockwood Dam on the Kennebec River in Waterville. That on its own is not a surprise. The fact the adult salmon was actually what’s called a “repeat spawner” and had been captured at the same facility exactly two years (and thousands of miles) earlier was grounds for celebration.

“This is the only repeat spawner we have ever had [in the 13 years since the Lockwood facility has been operational],” said Paul Christman, a marine scientist for the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Christman said that over the course of a year, all of Maine’s salmon rivers might see one repeat returnee, most of those counted on the state’s busiest salmon river, the Penobscot. This year, more than 1,000 salmon have returned to the Penobscot. Just 56 have been counted at Lockwood. Making Charlie particularly intriguing is the fact he’s either a naturally reared fish from eggs planted by fisheries personnel or a wild-spawned fish.

And the journeys that Charlie has made are mind-boggling, Christman said.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, young Atlantic salmon can travel more than 6,000 miles during their migration to and from the North Atlantic, where they will spend between one and three years before returning to their native rivers. That means Charlie might have 12,000 miles on his fins by now. He has surely earned a break, which he is currently taking.

Charlie was first caught on June 18, 2017, and had a radio tag and a “PIT” tag attached to him. The PIT tag allows scientists to identify him by a unique 16-digit number. The radio tag allowed them to track him until he regurgitated it at some point after he began his return to the Atlantic two years ago.

The crew’s radio tracked him to a pair of comfortable pools in the river where he spent the summer.

Then, after making his way back downriver (and over four hydroelectric dams), he headed back to sea where he flourished for two more years before swimming back to Lockwood Dam on the Kennebec.

An obliging crew then gave the salmon a ride back to the Sandy, and that’s where he remains, resting comfortably after his second grueling trip in two years.

“As of last Thursday, he was sitting in one of the pools that he sat in two years ago,” Christman said.

Christman said DMR personnel have snorkeled nearby and report that Charlie looks healthy — and big.

Jennifer Noll, another DMR fisheries scientist, reported that when Charlie was captured two years ago he was almost 29 inches long. Now, he measures nearly 34 inches from snout to tail.

Christman said many fish die in their natal rivers before even heading to sea once, and they face countless challenges while in the ocean. Upon their return to a river, they must overcome more obstacles and survive predators that would like to enjoy a salmon dinner.

The fact Charlie has made those grueling, life-threatening trips twice makes him a rare fish indeed.

“He has defied all the odds. He has actually survived an enormous amount of mortality,” Christman said. “He is at least two years older, three years older than all the other [salmon] in the Sandy River. This guy has seen it all and survived. It really is amazing.”

Christman thinks Charlie successfully spawned two years ago — spawning redds were found near where he was hanging out — and hopes he is able to do the same this year.

Passing along his genetics to future generations can’t hurt, after all.

“This guy really wins. I mean, he’s got it all,” Christman said. “It’s really amazing to see a fish that has been through it all and survived [all of those threats]. I just can’t fathom.”

View of Charlie’s River


“Charlie” the Atlantic salmon would have made his way up this part of the Kennebec River to reach the Lockwood Dam, both in 2017 and in 2019. A marvellous tale of a charismatic species making the Kennebec River a home for spawning. Photo Maranda Nemeth.

Fishing PowerBait For Trout

Yakima Basics on Fishing PowerBait For Trout
by Buzz Ramsey, Yakima Bait Company
from The Fishing Wire

Catch trout on Powerbait


“Still-Fishing” (also known as dead-sticking or plunking) dough bait for trout is a popular and productive method for catching trout from lakes, reservoirs and rivers, many of which are frequently stocked with hatchery trout. It’s so Easy:Cast out, allow your outfit to sink to the bottom, wait for a bite, and set-the-hook when your rod tip dips toward the water. It’s important to leave some slack in your line, so trout can swim off with your bait and swallow it without feeling line resistance before you yank back on your rod tip to set the hook.

When using PowerBait you can greatly increase your success by using the right amount of dough trout bait in combination with a Lil’ Corky single-egg-imitation so that your bait will float above bottom to allow cruising trout to find it. This is fundamental to success and often results in quick limits. The buoyancy of your Lil Corky single-egg-imitation will take the guess work out of how much dough bait is the right amount to float your bait.

When rigging a Lil’ Corky/PowerBait combination, use a ball of PowerBait slightly larger than your Lil’ Corky. We can tell you, based on extensive testing and observation of underwater video footage, that you will catch far more fish if your Lil’ Corky and PowerBait combination floats side-by-side in the water column.

Selecting the Right Leader Length:

Leader length is important because, after all, you want your bait floating at the depth the fish are cruising, which might be close to the bottom during times when the water is clear and sun bright, higher in the water column during the spring – when water temperatures begin to warm – early and/or late in the day, or on overcast days. And while the average leader length should be 18-to-24 inches, a leader long enough to extend above bottom-growing vegetation might be the ticket to success when trout are swimming just above the weed tops.


Rigging is Easy:

Simply thread your main line through the hole in an oval egg sinker, add a small plastic bead, and tie your line end to a size ten (10) barrel swivel. Then attach your leader (18-to-24 inches), complete with Lil’ Corky threaded on the leader above hook, to the free end of your swivel end, then mold a ball of PowerBait around your hook.

Note: A size 12 treble hook should be used in combination with a size 12 Lil Corky, and size 14 treble with size 14 Lil Corky bait floater if you intend to keep the fish–if you’re release fishing, avoid trebles and go with a larger single hook, maybe size 10.


Terminal Tackle You Will Need:

1) Selection of size 12 and 14 Lil’ Corky floating egg imitation/bait-floaters; the most popular colors are pink pearl, red, orange, pink, sherbet, clown, and (for night fishing – where legal) luminous flame.

2) Selection of size 12 and 14 treble hooks.

3) Selection of ¼, 3/8 and 1/2 ounce “Oval Egg” free-sliding sinkers.

4) Size 10 barrel swivels.

5) Size 4 and/or 6mm plastic beads

6) Spool of four (4) or six (6) pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material. Fluorocarbon leader material is less visible to fish.

Prepared Bait

The most popular and productive dough trout bait is Berkley PowerBait with the garlic flavors preferred by many anglers. The most popular dough bait colors include Rainbow, Sherbet, Chartreuse, Peach, and Flame Orange.

Rods, Reels and Fishing Line

Anglers specializing in still-fishing PowerBait employ 6 to 7 foot soft-tipped spinning rods rated for 2-to-8 pound test fishing line. Your spinning reel should be one with a quality drag, like an Abu Garcia or Pflueger brand. Purchasing a rod and reel combination, like one offered by Shakespeare and sized for trout, can represent an affordable option. The most popular fishing line is six (6) pound test monofilament.

For more details, visit www.yakimabait.com.

Idaho’s Salmon

Hope for Idaho’s Salmon
by Chris Wood, President, Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

“I have concluded that I am going to stay alive long enough to see salmon return to healthy populations in Idaho.”

Those words by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) at a conference at the Andrus Center last week may do more to project the recovery of the imperiled Snake River salmon and steelhead than multiple lawsuits, five biological opinions, and a whopping $16 billion spent on a failed effort to recover Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead.

Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID)


Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) saying what needs to be said at an Andrus Center for the West event in Boise recently.

Twenty-eight years ago, after learning of the plight of “Lonesome Larry,” I dedicated my career to helping recover Idaho’s salmon and steelhead. Larry, a sockeye, managed to swim 800 miles, climbing 6,500 feet in elevation, crossing eight dams, countless predators—never feeding—to return to the lake he was born to have sex one time before he died. That didn’t happen—he was the only sockeye to return.

Wild salmon and steelhead in Idaho are on a path to extinction.

Before the construction of the four lower Snake dams, more than a million Snake River spring and summer Chinook and more than half-a-million steelhead returned to spawn. Today, those runs are a fraction of their historic abundance. In the 1950s, the Middle Fork of the Salmon was such a prolific fishery that anglers could keep two salmon per day for a five-week season. In 2017, fewer than 500 salmon returned to spawn in the Middle Fork – 1 percent of the historic runs.

Larry’s ancestors that gave Redfish Lake its name, once came in the tens of thousands. Last year, 134 returned.

Congressman Simpson rightly asks, “Why should Idaho bear all the costs of the Snake River dams and reap so few of its benefits?”

Half of all steelhead in the Columbia River system once returned to the Snake River in Idaho

The scientific evidence is overwhelming: after almost 30 years and billions of dollars spent on habitat restoration and techno-fixes at the dams, removal of the four lower Snake River dams is essential to salmon and steelhead recovery—adjustments will also be needed in hatchery, harvest and predator management.

Restoration, however, cannot simply be about fish. This hopeful and complex effort must be about people, too. Restoration of the Snake must ensure that farmers can irrigate and transport their crops. It must ensure that jobs are safe and energy supplies are reliable. It must help meet the social and economic priorities of local communities such as Lewiston. It must create robust, fishable, and harvestable populations of salmon and steelhead for recreational, tribal and commercial fishermen.

The fish are important; but people are, too.

While not himself calling for dam removal, Congressman Simpson’s willingness to ask the hard questions should result in an unbiased look at what is needed to bring back Idaho’s salmon legacy. U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) demonstrated the same type of leadership in developing the Idaho Roadless Rule which protects 9 million acres of incredible fish and wildlife habitat in the Gem State.

For three decades, we have accepted half-measures and lurched from crises to crises – unwilling to address the cause of the decline of Idaho’s magnificent salmon and steelhead. These fish are remarkably resilient. If given half a chance, they will return, but they are running out of time.

Read more like this at www.tu.org.

Build Coho Salmon Habitat

Working with Nature’s Engineers to Build Coho Salmon Habitat
NOAA partners managing an innovative pilot program in Oregon are constructing dam starter structures for beavers to finish building, creating slow water areas for juvenile Coho to thrive.
from The Fishing Wire

Beaver dams help coho


Analogs provide a solid foundation from which beavers can start building their dams. Photo: Upper Nehalem Watershed Council

On the Oregon coast, NOAA and partners are leveraging the strong engineering skills of their beloved state animal to restore important habitat for threatened coho salmon and other species.

Supported by NOAA, our partners at the Wild Salmon Center and Upper Nehalem Watershed Council are embarking on a pilot project. It will assist beavers with building dams in key areas of tributaries where juvenile migrating fish grow. Once built, beaver dams create slower moving sections of streams for juvenile fish to use as habitat.

To construct the beaver dam analog, a row of wooden posts is anchored upright in the stream bed.

Similar to estuaries and river delta habitats, the slow-moving pools of water behind beaver dams offer juvenile salmon critical time for feeding and growing before their trip to the ocean. Unlike man-made barriers to fish passage, adult salmon are able pass beaver dams when they migrate back upstream to spawn.

With these pilot projects, NOAA and partners are building foundation structures, called “analogs.” They are placed in areas where beavers once lived, and where the stream grade and size are optimal for juvenile salmon habitat. Think of them as the foundations of a home.

The slow moving pools of water created by beaver dams provide habitat for threatened coho salmon and other species.

Once we introduce the analogs to ideal areas, beavers find them and build out the rest of their new homes. Rows of wooden posts intertwined with tree branches and straw give our furry restoration partners a solid foundation from which to start building their dams. We also ensure they have plenty of food sources by planting willows and other tasty foods beavers like while removing invasive plants from the areas.

These innovative but simple projects are turning back the clock to times where beavers freely built dams along streams and rivers in Oregon watersheds. Modern development has straightened stream channels and increased the amount and speed of water flow. This makes it hard for juvenile salmon to rest during freshwater stages of their early lives. This habitat loss for beavers and salmon has created population declines for both species.

These pilots are one piece of a larger effort, the Oregon Coast Coho Recovery Plan, to restore Oregon Coast coho salmon habitat. We are providing funding and technical support to the Wild Salmon Center to implement a series of habitat restoration projects across the Oregon Coast. We are working with a variety of partners including local and state governments, non-profit organizations, tribes, and other federal agencies. Together these coordinated efforts are targeting restoration where it will have the greatest benefit and make the biggest impact for threatened coho salmon.

Native Trout Species Returned to an Appalachian Stream

Hundreds of Tennessee’s Only Native Trout Species Returned to an Appalachian Stream
from The Fishing Wire

Native trout being restocked in Tennessee


Chattanooga, Tenn. – Winding under a thick canopy of trees and down a stairstep of boulder-strewn waterfalls, Little Stoney Creek’s descent through Cherokee National Forest is the idyllic picture of Appalachian Mountain splendor.

With its dappled pockets of sunlight and shade and frigid water, this pristine stream is an ideal habitat for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. Also lovingly referred to by scientists and sport fishers alike as “Brookies,” this region-specific strain of Brook Trout is the Southeast’s only native trout species.

With blue skies patchily peeking through the trees overhead, Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute Reintroduction Biologist Meredith Harris and Reintroduction Assistant Hayley Robinson carefully navigate the stream across moss-slick rocks and trees.

Their progress through the rushing stream is made all the more difficult thanks to the shifting weight of the thick plastic bags they’re carrying. These awkward burdens are filled with water and — most importantly — dozens of two-inch long juvenile Brookies bound for reintroduction into the creek after months of attentive care at the Aquarium’s freshwater science center in Chattanooga.

Harris and Robinson, along with two other reintroduction assistants, Avery Millard and Anna Quintrell, have traveled hundreds of miles to reach this beautiful, remote waterway. Along with representatives from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the U.S. Forest Service and members of Trout Unlimited, the biologists have convened to return 389 juvenile Brookies to waters that are their ancestral birthright.

“You know, today is the day when we really get to see what it’s all about,” Harris says, smiling. “It’s a great day; it’s the best day.”

Despite the treacherous footing, she and Robinson are all smiles as they slosh along, pausing occasionally by patches of comparatively still water. Dipping into their bags, they deposit nets full of baby trout into these calmer pools. As they watch the tiny fish swim away, their expressions mix equal measures of pride and joy.

“We work really hard back at the facility and spend a lot of time working with these animals,” Harris says. “To be able to come out here and watch them swim away into the water, to fulfill the ecological role that they were meant to, that’s what makes it all worth it. That just really brings the purpose home for me.”

Thanks to clear-cutting in the 1900s and the introduction of larger, competing, non-native species like Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout, the ruby-bellied and golden-speckled Southern Appalachian Brook Trout now occupies less than 15 percent of its historical range.

Since the 1980s, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has been working to restore the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout to cold water streams like Little Stoney Creek that flow through the species’ native range. In 2012, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute joined this effort, helping to raise the juveniles in propagation facilities at its freshwater science center near downtown Chattanooga.

Each fall, Conservation Institute biologists collect eggs spawned by a broodstock of wild-caught adult Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. During a month-long incubation, scientists tend to these eggs until the young emerge, still attached to large, nutrient-rich yolk sacs. After another month, these “sac fry” become free-swimming and are able to eat.

Biologists care for these juveniles throughout the winter and early spring until the diminutive fish are about two inches long, just large and hardy enough to survive in the wild. Including the current batch of juveniles, the Aquarium has raised and reintroduced about 3,500 Southern Appalachian Brook Trout to Little Stoney Creek and other waterways.

This effort is fully financed by the Appalachian Chapter of Trout Unlimited through funds raised by the sale of special vanity license plates adorned with the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. In 2018, Trout Unlimited donated $11,170, the organization’s largest single grant since it began financial support of the program in 2014.

“The Tennessee Aquarium is a natural partner for us,” says Steve Fry, the chapter’s president. “The mission of Trout Unlimited is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. This project allows us to coordinate efforts with Trout Unlimited Chapters in northeast Tennessee to bring back an iconic species.”

At Little Stoney Creek, representatives from the Overmountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited are wading alongside Harris and Robinson, enthusiastically accepting offers from the biologists to release some of the fry. To them, Brookies aren’t just another fish to try and catch; they’re a part of the region’s natural heritage.

“The Southern Appalachian strain of Brook Trout is the only trout species in this area that God put here himself,” says Overmountain Trout Unlimited Chapter President Ryan Turgeon. “A lot of different organizations came together to raise funds, and a lot of grant money and hours were put in to get something like this done.

“It’s great to see everyone come together — different age groups, different diversities — to return these fish to the stream. It was really great to see that.”

To learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium’s work to restore the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout, visittnaqua.org/protecting-animals/southern-appalachian-brook-trout. For more information about the Appalachian Chapter of Trout Unlimited, visit appalachiantu.org.

See video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YEEaLyuS3A&authuser=0

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About the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute

The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute is a leader in freshwater science. For more than 20 years, our researchers have been working to better understand and protect the Southeast’s abundance of aquatic wildlife. The region’s rich diversity is part of our natural heritage – a gift to be discovered, appreciated and protected.

Learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute online at tnaqua.org/protect-freshwater.

Get updates about our field conservation and research projects by following the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute on Facebook and Twitter.

Mysteries of Pacific Salmon Survival

International Voyage Aims to Unravel Mysteries of Pacific Salmon Survival

Pacific Salmon Survival


Contributed by Michael Milstein, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
from The Fishing Wire

An international team of biologists is setting out into some of the roughest waters in the North Pacific Ocean in the middle of winter to try to solve the fundamental mystery of Pacific salmon: What determines whether they live or die?

Pursuing Answers in the Remote Ocean

Perhaps the most critical, but least known, part of the salmon life cycle is the few years the fish spend on the high seas, gaining energy to return to their home rivers and spawn. This is where most of the salmon that stream out of Northwest and Alaska rivers each year disappear, most never to be seen again. Now the science team is headed into the remote Gulf of Alaska to try to find out which fish survive, and why.

“What we most need to know about salmon, we mostly don’t know,” said Richard “Dick” Beamish, a longtime salmon researcher in Canada who, with Russian colleagues, launched plans for the research expedition as a centerpiece of the International Year of the Salmon in 2019. He also raised about $1 million to fund the voyage. NOAA Fisheries contributed as well.

“Nothing like this has ever been done before to my knowledge, and I’ve been doing this for 50 years,” Beamish said. “I believe that we will make discoveries that will change the way we think of salmon and do salmon research.”

International Scientists Join Voyage

NOAA Fisheries has three scientists on board the survey, which includes top salmon researchers from Russia, Korea, Japan, and Canada. Scientists believe that Pacific Rim salmon, whether from Alaska, the west coast of the United States, or the east coast of Asia, all spend time in the Gulf of Alaska during their years at sea.

Fisheries biologist Laurie Weitkamp, who is based at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Newport (Ore.) Research Station, will be the chief U.S. scientist for the trip. Weitkamp’s previous research has mainly focused on estuaries and coastal areas, she said, while the open ocean has largely remained a “black box” to scientists searching for better tools to predict salmon returns to west coast and Alaska rivers.

“This is not a place that is very easy to go and do science, especially in winter,” said Weitkamp, who recognizes she will likely get seasick in waves known to tower 50 feet or higher, but is O.K. with that. “To understand what is affecting these fish, you have to go where the fish are, and now we are finally about to do that.”

Fisheries biologists Charlie Waters and Gerard Foley from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center will be collecting samples for several studies to learn more about salmon condition and diet. In particular, they want to learn more about what pink salmon are eating and whether they are in competition with sockeye, Chinook, and coho for prey resources. All of these salmon species support important commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries in Alaska.

“We have a vested interest in knowing what’s going on during the winter months,” said Foley. “It is a critical, critical time in the life history of these fish.”

The science team will set out in mid-February 2019 from Vancouver, B.C., on a Russian research ship named Professor Kaganovskiy, backed by funding from the Canadian government, the Pacific Salmon Commission, the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association, and others. The ship will spend a month crisscrossing the Gulf of Alaska with trawl nets and examining the salmon they catch with tools that range from microscopes to DNA fingerprinting.

Salmon’s Race for Survival

Scientists have long suspected that the fate of salmon migrating into the ocean is sealed during their first year at sea. The fish that grow large enough, fast enough to elude predators and make it through the first winter are the fish that will return to rivers to spawn–and to be caught in fishing nets. For the first time, the scientists aboard Professor Kaganovskiy will be able to test that theory, using clues like the tiny bones in the ears of fish, known as otoliths, that reflect each fish’s growth.

Roughly 99 of every 100 salmon that leave rivers for the ocean never return. The team wants to know what distinguishes those fish from the rare salmon that make it back alive.

“This is the time of year when we think most of the mortality is occurring, so this is when we want to be there to understand the fundamental mechanisms that regulate the production of salmon,” Beamish said. The better they understand the most influential factor affecting fish, he said, the closer they will be to providing more accurate forecasts of salmon returns to west coast rivers.

That, in turn, will help fisheries managers, fishermen, and others effectively manage salmon in a changing ecosystem, Beamish said.

Researchers also believe that different salmon stocks, such as those from rivers including the Snake and Columbia, migrate through certain parts of the Gulf of Alaska, capitalizing on the food available in different areas. The carrying capacity of those areas will also help determine how many fish return to the rivers.

“We’ve never been able to test that before,” Beamish said. “Now we have a chance to be there and see it happening in real time.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Gulf of Alaska expedition
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site https://yearofthesalmon.org/gulf-of-alaska-expedition/

International Year of the Salmon
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site https://yearofthesalmon.org/

Ocean ecosystem indicators of salmon survival
https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/fe/estuarine/oeip/index.cfm

Apache Trout

Apache Trout
From near Extinction to EcoTourism
from The Fishing Wire

By Al Barrus, Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southwest Region

Male Apache Trout


After being stripped of its milt (fish semen) a male Apache trout swims among biologists in waders. The trout at Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery are farm raised, and spawned yearly.

For the uninitiated, Arizona may seem an unlikely fishing destination. When conjuring images of Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Saguaro cacti come to mind, not so much cold water brooks in alpine climes. However, as is the case with most things, Arizona isn’t so black and white. This state is home to many fishes. There is, in fact, one species here that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

That is Arizona’s state fish: the Apache trout. Not normally occurring in large bodies of water, the Apache trout is native to the small, cool streams around the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. This species faced extinction due to competition from non-native trout, which were introduced for recreation.

Listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Apache trout is among those first species to gain federal protection. In 2000, the species was down-listed to threatened, opening the door to recreation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region fish biologists continue the work to restore this unique creature to its original habitat and to supply trout for recreation, as explains Zachary Jackson, the project coordinator and supervisory fish biologist for the Whiteriver station of the Service’s Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

“Several Service programs come together to further Apache trout conservation. The Ecological Services program works on threatened and endangered species issues. The Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office works to implement recovery actions working closely with our partners. The hatchery program also plays a role in sport fish production for Apache trout as well as producing an Apache trout stock that could be used for recovery purposes.

“Over the course of time, there were a number of threats to Apache trout. Maybe most significant there was probably some overfishing. They were very popular. Sport fish introduced into their range really constricted them to the headwaters of their native range. Those non-native trouts introduced for improved sport fishing opportunities have a few different interactions with Apache trout that negatively affect them.”

The Apache trout has very much become an underdog in it’s own neighborhood. Rainbow and brook trout were brought in: compete with Apache trout for food and space and interbreed with them. Complicating recovery further, rainbow, brook, and brown trout remain favorites for many recreational anglers. It can be difficult to convince outdoorsmen to give up a large game fish for a smaller trout that is listed as threatened.

“There’s hybridization that occurs that dilutes the Apache trout gene pool. There’s competition for food and space with Apache trout and that reduces their ability to increase in abundance and be robust, and then there’s direct predation by some of these non-native trout.”

With a coalition between federal, state, and tribal partners, recovery and conservation is moving forward. Hatcheries exist to not only ensure a strong gene pool for recovery of the trout, but also here at Williams Creek, fish are bred for the sole purpose of recreation.

Part of the recovery process involves removing the non-native trout from designated Apache trout habitat. A common way biologist remove unwanted species is through electrofishing, using voltage that attracts and temporarily stuns fish. They’re also using new technology to learn where to find those fish they need to remove.

“We’re coupling traditional or well-established fisheries techniques like barrier construction and maintenance to keep non-natives out of prime Apache trout habitat, and non-native removals using backpack electrofishing, with newer technologies like eDNA sampling.

“Environmental DNA sampling is a technique where we can collect a sample of water and filter out from that particles from tissue of different living organisms, and we can use DNA detections from specific location to target what we’re looking for. The way we use it is we look for non-native DNA in the water. And we take systematic sampling along a stream course that allows us to tell where brown trout are in a system and we usually don’t employ it until we think we’ve gotten the brown trout population really low. It allows us to find those few remaining individuals and target them for removal.”

While brown and rainbow trout are common game fishing staples throughout much of the U.S., Apache trout offer new opportunities for anglers the world over, who will come from far and wide to catch a fish that’s found only in the White Mountains of Arizona.

“Apache trout are important to the economy because there are a lot of folks who put a high value on capturing them, and so it brings in a lot of tourist dollars to the area which is very important for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. It also brings in tourist dollars to the surrounding area.”

“I think native trout enthusiasts are particularly interested in Apache trout because they’re very rare. They put the same value on them that we would put on diamonds, which are also extremely rare and beautiful.”

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with recovering threatened and endangered species, and helping to provide recreational fishing opportunities is important to further conservation efforts, the Service’s role is very much a supportive one in the case of this unique trout.

“It’s critical for us to have a good strong relationship with the White Mountain Apache Tribe. They were the first stewards of Apache trout. They have been leading the conservation efforts since the beginning and our place here is in a supportive role. In everything thing that we do we’re coordinating very closely with them. With how and where we implement recovery actions we’re working with the tribe to constantly evaluate our wild populations and focus efforts where new threats arise. And without that partnership we wouldn’t be able to save the species.”

Williams Creek [NFH] hasn’t always been for the benefit of the Apache trout. Originally this hatchery was built to produce game trout for the tribe in the 1930s. The first year of operation attempted but failed to make Apache trout. It wasn’t until the 1980s that biologists were successful at breeding Apache trout at the hatchery.

Technology used at this hatchery is on the cutting edge. Williams Creek Fish Biologist Russell Wood explains some techniques they use to further the recovery of this fish.

“Apache trout are difficult to raise. They’re slower growing than the other species of trout due to a slower metabolism. They’re more susceptible to diseases which can make them difficult to raise.”

Today the hatchery staff manually spawned the trout. This process isn’t normally harmful for the fish, and they spawn yearly. An important part of keeping captive Apache trout is checking the ovarian fluid to check for disease. That comes out with the eggs. The males are also stripped of their sperm, which is called milt. The hatchery uses state-of-the art techniques to emulate a habitat that’s safe from predators and free of disease.

“This morning we were spawning Apache trout for production. Yesterday we sorted the female four-year-old Apache trout for ripeness. We had over a hundred ripe fish, so this morning we got in and we essentially knocked the fish out with a drug to make it safe to handle. Her eggs are hand stripped into a colander to drain the ovarian fluid off. They are then put into a bowl and the males are stripped of their milt for fertilization. And the eggs are water hardened for one hour, and then put away into the incubation stacks to incubate.”

The eggs and milt mix for a while, and then go on to become something greater than the sum of their parts: new Apache trout embryos. The hatchery is also using some newer techniques. They’re harvesting milt from wild Apache trout, and preserving in low temperatures, to enhance the stock that’s bred primarily for recreational fishing.

“This year for the first time we’re trying to introduced wild genetic material from the wild back into our hatchery population. Last year we went up into the mountains in the spring and spawned wild males, and we cryo preserved their milt. It’s a technology that’s been used for a lot of years in the livestock industry with cattle and horses. The milt was mixed with an extender and sucked up into small straws and essentially frozen on liquid nitrogen at minus 300 degrees fahrenheit. This fall we had the cryopreserved milt shipped back to us, and we’ve started utilizing it in our broodstock production by thawing this milt and fertilizing fish eggs with it in order to bring the wild genetics back into our population.”

Since Apache trout were so close to extinction, the gene pool is very limited. It’s difficult to match fish that aren’t closely related, and interbreeding makes the fish more susceptible to disease. To ensure healthy genetic pairing, they identify gene types and tag the fish with something similar to the electronic “PIT” tag that many people get for their pets, something about the size of a long grain of rice, that’s implanted under the skin.The Service has a sort of matchmaking service for Apache trout in Dexter, New Mexico.

“The genetics lab at the Southwestern Native Aquatic Resource and Recovery Center, their geneticists did a matrix for us. We took 50 of our females with passive integrated transponders (tags that have a 10 digit number similar to a social security number) and a fin clip and they did genetic work to match males to females that were not related, and some of our fish we are spawning this year for our brood stock replacement. We are utilizing this matrix which is mating a specific male to a specific female that are the most unrelated that we have for the purpose of the greatest genetic diversity to avoid inbreeding and breeding fish that are closely related to each other.”

While restoring a genetically robust Apache trout to its original habitat is the long-term goal of the Service, Russell Wood agrees that this fish is important for the local tribe and for anglers. And the fish could also become more popular with cooks and people who enjoy eating fish.

“The biggest importance to the tribe is people travel long distances just to catch an Apache trout, because they’re only found here. So it’s a revenue for the tribe to have people from out of state or out of town travel here spend money here to catch a fish they can only catch here. I need to eat one because I heard they’re delicious.”

“When we stock those fish in the Christmas Tree Lake here on the Reservation, the Tribe runs what’s called Trout Camp which is like a luxury camping trip with nice tents, catered by home cooked food and people pay money to spend a weekend fishing for these large Apache trout in Christmas Tree Lake and get taken care of by fishing guides and cooks.”

Russell has some tips for prospective Apache trout anglers.

“Catching Apache trout is going to be like catching any trout, and if you’re a fly fisherman use any of the flies that we have here. As for bait fisherman a good thing to use is a white powerbait. Use a small hook and very little weight and just let it drift in the current. When you see the white powerbait disappear it’s a fish’s mouth, and set the hook.

“Their native habitat is very small streams, high mountain streams that are crystal clear, cold, have lots of riffles, runs, and rapids. Some of them are not very wide. You can jump across them. It’s very pretty.”

Bradley Clarkson is a supervisory fish biologist at Williams Creek [NFH]. As both a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee and a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Bradley has a unique perspective in the conservation of the trout. He says the Apache people are proud to have this trout named for them.

“The Apache people in general, they like that. It represents them as an Apache tribal members. And they’re the ones that are protecting the land, so now at least we have 13 or 14 strains of this trout.”

Bradley says that the conservation of the Apache trout goes back centuries, to the time of Geronimo, who was a prominent leader of the Apache (Chiricahua) from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, and enforced conservation during the time of westward expansion.

“I think Geronimo too had something to do with that as well. He would keep people away, even us White Mountain Apache kept our distance, when he was around we were afraid of him as well. My grandmother mentioned one time, her mom said when Geronimo is coming they would want to go higher up in the mountains.

“They feared him. If we feared him I’m pretty sure other folks feared him more that’s how I believe he protected the land and the natural resources. The White Mountain Apache Tribe as well, when the trout became endangered, they made it a wilderness area where you can’t even take in a slingshot, much less a fishing pole without getting cited.”

There’s also a measured return in investment in the important conservation work that the Service and the Tribe do in working together to restore the trout.

“For every dollar gets put into to the hatchery, the nearby communities get $19 back. And the future looks good because right now as the staff here at Williams Creek we finally got to where we can go out into the White Mountains, and the tribe give us permission to go in there and collect wild genetics to bring back and put in our brood stock. We’re not going to see it the change this year, but maybe two or three years down the road because we are finally getting our genetics put back into our spawning.”

For Bradley, a major aspect of this work is passing the torch to future generations.

“When my supervisors send me to the Native American meetings with other tribes I suggest to bring some expertise to the hatchery and some training for our youth. The most important skill for them to learn is cryopreservation, because that’s what we’re doing. Maybe some of our Apache tribal members can learn to do in the field, and they could pick it up and introduce it to the hatchery education program at the school.

“That’s one of our goals, we’ve been trying to recruit Apache tribal members by going and tapping into their high school and going to their instructors and biology teachers and asking and looking for the best candidate? Who has the potential?’ That’s how I get help, by finding who are good students to pick from. We only have so many spots here, but we can interview them and get them ready, and find out who’s really going into this field.

“Because I’d really like to see some Apache tribal member continue the hatchery work and from where I’m at right now and be dedicated and have a passion for the Apache trout program.

“That’s the reason why I’m still here 25 years later, because I really like to contribute to the Apache trout program, and when I’m done I’d like to say to the Apache people ‘Hey I’m done now. Your turn. This is as far as I can go. Now I go rest, and maybe go fishing.”

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Information about White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Trout Camp: https://www.wmatoutdoor.org/

Video – Watch Williams Creek Fish Biologist spawn Apache trout – https://www.facebook.com/USFWSSouthwest/videos/2094681363915423/

All photos by Al Barrus

Oregon Coastal Habitat Project Restores Coho

Oregon Coastal Habitat Project Restores Coho and Reduces Flooding
from The Fishing Wire

Juvenile coho salmon use estuaries


Juvenile coho salmon use estuaries to eat and grow before migrating to the ocean. Photo: USFWS/Roger Tabor
From NOAA Fisheries

The Southern Flow Corridor project, which restored salmon habitat in Tillamook, Oregon, also provides flood protection for surrounding communities.

NOAA’s work with community partners restoring estuary habitat in Tillamook Bay, Oregon is revitalizing tidal wetlands for threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon, and helping reduce flooding in the surrounding communities and farmlands.

The project’s benefits to fish were realized immediately—443 acres of different estuary habitats critical to juvenile salmon are now available, including mud flats, open water with vegetation, marsh and others. Often called “nurseries of the sea,” estuaries offer unique conditions, like slow moving water and tides that bring in nutrients, which keep fish safe and allow them to grow.

A recently published report also confirms the project’s flood reduction goals were achieved. Shortly after project completion, in October 2017, a flood occurred at the site. Our restoration work resulted in widespread reduction in flood levels and duration including along Highway 101, a key commercial and transportation corridor. In total, about 4,800 acres around the project site showed reductions in flood levels.

This project, like many others we work on, shows how restoring habitat back to its natural functions can help coastal communities be more resilient against severe weather. Nature-based approaches are being shown to provide these, and many other economic benefits, along both the the east and west coasts of the United States.

Almost 90 percent of the Tillamook Estuary’s historic tidal wetlands have been lost to development and agriculture. Like many other species relying on estuary and wetland habitats, loss of these areas is a primary contributor to the decline of Oregon Coast coho salmon.

Additionally, Oregon’s winters bring storm surges, heavy rainfall, and snow melt. Combined with high tides, this often causes flooding in the area. Flood losses in Tillamook County exceeded $60 million from 1996 – 2000.

To achieve the mutually beneficial project goals, old levees, fill, and tide gates were removed to create tidal estuary habitat. This functions as a “flow corridor,” allowing flood waters to move freely and quickly away from the town of Tillamook. Now, nearby properties and more than 500 structures are protected from flooding. It’s estimated that $9.2 million in economic benefits will accrue from avoided flood damages over the next 50 years.

The project reconnected hundreds of acres of marsh habitat and restored 13 miles of new tidal channels. This will significantly benefit Endangered Species Act-listed Oregon Coast coho salmon. Historically, more than 200,000 of these salmon would return to Tillamook Bay each year. That number was down to just 2,000 in 2012. This habitat is critical for juvenile salmon to feed and grow, and will help with the broader goal of species recovery along Oregon’s entire coast.

The Southern Flow Corridor Project is the result of tremendous community support and collaboration. NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center, within the Office of Habitat Conservation, and the West Coast Regional Office, worked with more than a dozen local, state, federal, tribal and private partners on this effort.

Key partners include the Port of Tillamook Bay, Tillamook Bay Habitat and Estuary Improvement District, Tillamook County, the State of Oregon, FEMA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Institute for Applied Ecology, and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. We provided funding for the project through the Community-based Restoration Program and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and on-the-ground technical assistance.

Read more about NOAA Fisheries projects here: