Category Archives: Trout and Salmon

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:

Why Use Rooster Tails For Early Season Trout?

Rooster Tails For Early Season Trout
By Bill Herzog, Yakima Baits
from The Fishing Wire

Big trout like Rooster Tails


April means Opening Day for trout anglers. Lakes are starting to warm, trout are becoming active and anglers are there for this exciting time. Choices for taking trout are many: dough baits, spinners, spoons, plugs and good old worms and salmon eggs. All work. But none have the versatility, all around effectiveness and reputation as well known as the Rooster Tail spinner.

Rooster Tails can be cast or trolled. Trolling is an excellent way to cover water and find aggressive trout. The flash of the Rooster Tail blade creates a greater attraction radius than most lures, bringing in more trout to strike. Early season trout frequently hang out in the first 10 feet of water, where it is warmest with the most feed. The weighted body of the Rooster Tail keeps the lure in the perfect depth while trolling, no need to add weight.

When trolling Rooster Tails, try a thin diameter braid with a 6 foot section of 8 pound natural toned mono tied with a Uni knot at the end of the braid to the lure. Even at slow trolling speeds, you may see the vibration and blade spin easily on the rod tip due to the non stretch properties of braid. Rooster Tail blades are tuned to rotate even at the slowest trolling speeds.

Favorite sizes and colors? Well, there are 10 sizes, 100 colors and 135 finishes to choose from. Try the 1/16th, 1/8th, 1/6th and ¼ ounce for the perfect balance of casting/trolling. For trout trolling and casting in lakes, here are some top choices that keep rising to the top of most effective: Red (R), red body/hackle/silver blade; Clown Coachdog (CLCD), olive/yellow/orange body/hackle/silver blade; Fire Tiger (FRT), yellow/olive/red body/hackle/brass blade; Frog (FR), green/olive body/hackle/brass blade; White (WH) white body/hackle/silver blade and Yellow (YL), yellow hackle/body/silver blade. My absolute favorite is the new Cheese Fly (CHFY), with an orange/yellow tail and body, brass blade. Last spring, more trophy sized rainbows, browns, brookies and especially cutthroat fell to that color combo than any other.

Tipping is not just for good service in restaurants, it can be the difference in an interested trout follow into a vicious strike. A small 1 inch piece of nightcrawler or single salmon egg on the treble/single hook on a Rooster Tail makes a great lure unbeatable. No bait, no problem…spritz a pump of Rooster Tail Scent Spray on the lure. Rooster Tail Scent Spray is loaded with amino bite stimulants and UV to really pop visually as well as smell. Best of all the spray will not matte down the attractive movement of the hackle tail.

Best flavors? In this order, but know that each one was flat deadly the last two seasons: Garlic Plus, Trophy Trout and the leader going into the clubhouse Trout Kokanee Magic.

If trolling is not your thing, no problem. Rooster Tails can be cast easily on light line. Position yourself (boat or bank) near where trout may be found and fan cast your Rooster Tail, covering the area. Start your presentations near the surface, then with each “round” of casts, let the lure sink a few seconds more, until bottom is reached or strikes become consistent at a certain depth/area. Retrieve the Rooster Tail just fast enough for a 4 to 6 time “blade thump” per second. To ensure a good blade spin, retrieve the lure quickly at the beginning of the presentation until you feel the “thump” of the rotating blade. Reel ‘till you feel, as they say!

Great sizes/weights for casting are the 1/8ths for shallower water/close to your position; the 1/6th for ideal all around size for distance and depth and the ¼ ounce for breezy conditions or when you have to get the lure down quicker.

A great tip that needs to be put out there is Rooster Tails are not just for trolling or casting/retrieving, they can be jigged also. When trout get finicky- and if you spend any time on the water there is a guarantee there will be times when bites are hard to come by- try this trick. After casting and beginning your retrieve, sharply drop your rod tip approximately six inches, creating a nano second of slack line and allowing the Rooster Tail to drop a foot or so. Many salmonids (trout, salmon) key on falling prey, mimicking a wounded/dead/distressed creature of sorts. This swift, short dropping action can trigger an aggressive grab from a trout that may have been on the fence if it was to bite or not.

Learn more at www.yakimabait.com.

Steelhead Rig

Two-Timing Steelhead Rig
By Buzz Ramsey
from The Fishing Wire

Catch big steelhead on this rig


It was co-worker Jarod Higginbotham who turned me onto the Two-Timing Steelhead Rig when he hooked two fat steelheads, in just a few casts, on this double rig suspended under a float while drifting his outfit through a pool where fresh steelhead were holding. The double set up works for more than just steelhead as we’ve caught trout, cutthroat, whitefish, and coho salmon while using it.

Besides being effective for nearly every river species, the Two-Timing rig is easy to tie up and use. It’s float fishing with a steelhead jig suspended under a pencil shaped bobber with a leader, 18-to-24 inches works, extending from your jig to a LiL’ Corky single-egg-imitation and hook. The Corky is pegged, held in position on your leader, a few inches above the hook by wedging a tooth pick where the leader threads through your Corky and breaking it off flush with the imitation egg.

The sizing of the hook and Corky are important because your goal is to offset the buoyancy of your Corky with a hook large enough to make it sink below your jig, but not so heavy a hook that it inhibits the Corky’s ability to look natural as it drifts along. In addition, you can increase your odds of success by setting your bobber such that your Corky will nudge bottom occasionally as it drifts downriver a few feet under your jig.

I remember Jarod being more than a little excited as he explaining to me how the buoyancy of the Corky helps float the hook point up (meaning you get hung on the bottom at lot less often) and how the larger/heavier hook required for this set up produces more-hookups-per-strike due to the bigger point-to-shank gap as compared to that of a smaller hook.

The first time we tried it together we landed four steelheads; three came on the Corky as compared to one on the steelhead jig located just a few feet up the line. With success like this, it’s like: why not add a leader and Corky to your steelhead jig when float fishing?

The Basics of Float Fishing

Float fishing is similar to the drift fishing method in that you cast out, across and slightly upstream, pick up the slack line between you and your float, and allow your float, jig and Corky (suspended below your jig) to drift downstream and through the holding water. Your drift is complete when your outfit nears the tail out, jig begins hitting bottom, or you cannot eliminate line drag by mending, which is when you’ll need to reel in and cast again.Float fishing consists of a series of casts, drifts, and retrieves. Because you’re fishing with your eyes rather than by feel, you’ll need to keep close tabs on your bobber at all times. When/if your bobber goes down/disappears (signaling a fish has taken youroffering) you must quickly and immediately set the hook.

What you need for a float rig


In all cases, a drag-free drift with your float moving at or a bit slower than the river current is critical to success. If you’re fishing a current edge, that is, where slack and moving water meet, on the near side of the river, you should have no problem with line drag. It may be a different story if you’re casting out into a hole or drift where river current, especially a strong one, can grab your main line the moment it hits the water’s surface and push it downstream faster than your float is moving.

One way to reduce or momentarily eliminate line belly and its effect on maintaining a natural drift is to mend your line. Line mending is something fly anglers do, for the same reason, to prevent their fly from skating across and downstream too fast. To mend your line, start with your rod tip at a low angle and pointed at your float, progressively pull your rod tip up and backward (toward you) while rolling your rod tip and line upstream. When you mend, it’s important to do so aggressively enough that your main line will be tossed upstream all the way to your float. Given a strong current combined with a cross current cast, you may have to mend your main line several times during a single drift.

Casting out at a slight downstream angle and feeding line off your reel fast enough that your bobber won’t be overcome by line drag can reduce or eliminate the effects of line belly on your bobber. If you’re a boater, you can cast out to the side or at a 45-degree angle downstream too, but you may find better success and eliminate all line drag by anchoring above the area you wish to fish and maneuver your bobber directly downstream from your anchored boat.

Float fishing works best when the rivers are medium to low in height and the water is clear. And although float fishing will work anywhere fish hold, it’s especially effective for fishing current edges, where fast and slack water meet, a place where steelhead often hold.

Most anglers will suspended their jig half to three quarters of the way to the river bottom when fishing areas where the water is eight feet or less in depth and within a few feet of bottom where it’s deeper.

The two-timing rig means adding an 18-to-24-inch leader to your jig – just tie the leader to the bend of your jig hook and slide the knot up the hook shank toward the jig head, which will allow your jig to suspend below your float in a horizontal position (the fish like this jig presentation best).

Lil’ Corky single egg imitations are buoyant so it’s important when fishing one under a jig to offset the buoyancy of your Corky with a single hook large enough to make your Corky sink/drift below your jig. For the right amount of buoyancy, what works is a size 12 Corky rigged in conjunction with a size #1 single hook –(what I use is the needle point hook made by Owner.)

In more turbid water or at times when fish might respond to a larger egg imitation, try a size 10 or 8 Corky rigged in combination with a size 1/0 single hook. The key here is to peg your Corky 2-to-3 inches above your single hook with a round tooth pick. The buoyancy of the Corky floats the hook point up so you get hung up less with it as compared to using a bead or other non-buoyant egg imitation. Although any hook color will work there are times when a red colored hook might out-produce a bronze or nickel colored one. This outfit can be even more effective if you set your bobber such that the hook pegged a few inches below your Corky taps bottom occasionally as it drifts downstream in the river current.

For more fishing tips and gear, visit www.yakimabait.com

Help Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species

Take Steps to Help Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species
By Monica Garrity, TPWD Aquatic Invasive Species Team Leader
from The Fishing Wire

Recently a fisherman contacted me at TPWD with a question about decontaminating waders and fishing gear—we appreciate your interest in protecting our natural resources for future generations!

Here is some information—hope it helps:

Any gear used in the water should be decontaminated before you use it on another water body or at another site on a river or creek, especially if you move upstream.

For waders, we recommend that, at minimum, you remove any mud, plants, or other water and let them dry completely. Make sure to pay special attention to gravel guards, boot treads and use a flathead screwdriver or toothbrush followed by a wash-down of the gear with a good strong spray nozzle on a water hose. If you can, go the extra mile and decontaminate after cleaning and before drying. Here are three options to decontaminate your waders and nets—the first option will kill any disease-causing organisms (like whirling disease of fish). Be sure to wear eye protection and gloves, and protect your clothing.

Best option: use a 10 bleach/water mixture—this can cause some waders to fade.

Add ½ gallon of household bleach to a five-gallon bucket filled with water—make a new batch of bleach water every time you decontaminate.
Put the waders and gear in a big Rubbermaid tub or mop sink, weight them down with something that won’t corrode, like bricks or rocks.
Pour the mixture in and make sure everything is submerged.

Set a timer for ten minutes—no less and no more than 12 (for your gear’s sake—10 min is the recommended time).
Rinse the gear and let dry completely—hang waders upside down.

Dump the bleach/water down the sink drain. If outside, dump the bleach water at least 300 yards from the nearest outdoor water source.
Good option: use a 50% solution of Formula 409 or Lysol (buy a big jug of it!)

Make a mix of half Formula 409 and half water—just enough to cover the waders in the tub.

Put the waders and gear in a big Rubbermaid tub or mop sink, weight them down with something that won’t corrode, like bricks or rocks.

Pour the 409/water in and make sure everything is submerged.

Soak for at least 10 minutes and try to agitate (just slosh the liquid in the tub around a bit).

Rinse the gear and let dry completely—hang waders upside down.

Best to dump the solution down the sink drain.

Acceptable option: use hot water; for invasive species but not disease.

Follow the same basic soaking/weighting procedures as above.

Soak for at least 20 minutes in the hottest water your tap can provide—aiming for 120°F.

Add hot water periodically during the 20 minutes if you think it’s needed to keep the water super-hot.

Let dry completely.

Some other options—not the greatest—are to run waders through a very hot cycle in the washing machine or dishwasher and let dry. For other fishing gear, do the same thing—remove any mud and plants, rinse, and let dry completely. For dip nets or other nets that won’t be damaged, the extra decontamination steps described above are good practice—even though they won’t be good (or really necessary) for fishing rods.

Here’s a link to a nice fly-fishing group website that I like because it gives good, clear information and a nice flow chart. Even though the group is in the Rocky Mountains area, the methods apply everywhere. Thanks again for your diligence to protect our waterways!

Trout Unlimited

Trout Ulimited Looks Back on Successes and Challenges of 2018

By Chris Wood, President
Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

Trout Unlimited restores habitat


Conservation is a long game, so it is especially important to celebrate successes.

After decades of decline, 2018 may mark the year that we turned the corner on the recovery of Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake. The world’s first national park had lost more than 95 percent of its native cutts, and their path to extirpation looked as close as the mouth of the nearest non-native lake trout. Working with the park, and Yellowstone Forever, TU began supporting the commercial-grade fishing of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake (although the trapped lake trout have never been used for commercial purposes). Dave Sweet of Wyoming, who led our efforts, fished the park’s streams this past summer, and said cutties are everywhere. “The biggest fish caught was pushing 25 inches, healthy and fat. The average fish was 20-23 inches.”

TU-supported science helped to identify the best places to target invasive lake trout. TU scientists are also helping to revolutionize the recovery of imperiled native trout species. With support from NASA, TU worked with partners to develop a new spatial analysis that allows managers to determine extinction risks for Lahontan cutthroat trout. This tool could be a game-changer in helping move the conversation from stopping extinction of native trout to promoting recovery.

As state and federal agency commitments to science decline, the investments of TU and our partners in fisheries science become ever more important. For example, our partners at the USGS Leetown Science Center discovered that almost all brook trout populations in the eastern U.S. have a unique genetic signature. In the Southeast, almost all populations are isolated from one another, with essentially no gene flow. This makes the work of chapters and staff to remove obsolete dams and fix perched culverts more essential to the long-term health of brook trout and other wild and native trout.

Recovering the natural resiliency of rivers and streams is a top priority in the face of increased floods, fires and drought associated with climate change. The Big Wood River in Idaho has suffered through devastating fires and a massive flood in recent years. TU worked with the local flood control district to reconstruct a major irrigation diversion that was blown out by the flood, and in so doing they recovered the river’s natural floodplain and made future irrigation on the river much less ecologically damaging.

When volunteers and staff work together, magic happens. Consider the fact that advocacy efforts in Pennsylvania by TU staff and volunteers enabled us to secure wild trout status for 476 stream sections in the commonwealth totaling nearly 1,000 miles.

The future of conservation depends on engaging more kids, and the future of Trout Unlimited lies in our ability to diversify the organization. STREAM Girls, a program TU developed in partnership with the Girl Scouts USA, helps us to accomplish both objectives. The program employs STEM-education (science, technology, engineering, math) plus recreation and arts to engage girls while exploring their local streams. STREAM Girls grew into new regions in the last year, and the curriculum expanded to include exciting new technologies and elements of citizen science.

Not a lot happened in Congress in 2018, but a major win was reauthorization of the Farm Bill. This is a major bipartisan victory for private land conservation. Among other things, the Farm Bill cuts red tape to enable more and larger landscape-scale conservation; improves irrigation efficiency and watershed health; and funds restoration of small watersheds.

To be certain, we have our challenges in 2019. Chief among them are improving a backward-looking proposal to remove the protections of the Clean Water Act for 20 percent of the nation’s streams and 50 percent of its wetlands; continue the fight to protect Bristol Bay from industrial-scale mining; and pass an Omnibus Public Lands Bill to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and pass the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary Act.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.”

Your work in thousands of communities across America to protect, reconnect and restore the lands and waters that sustain us are seeds of hope. Your efforts to help a veteran to heal through time on the water or to teach kids about the wonders of the Lord’s creation are seeds to a better future.

Thoreau concluded: “Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

Let’s get after it for 2019.

Read more like this at www.tu.org.

Steelhead Resurgence

Central Washington Fosters Steelhead Resurgence
Federal agencies focus efforts to boost Middle Columbia steelhead toward recovery
from The Fishing Wire

Farmer Urban Eberhart recalls watching a video of Middle Columbia River steelhead trying in vain a few years ago to jump a diversion dam blocking historic spawning grounds in the upper reaches of Central Washington’s Manastash Creek.

Helping steelhead


Heavy equipment removing the Reed Diversion Dam in late 2016.

Now that diversion dam is gone, dismantled through the cooperative efforts of local irrigators, Kittitas County Conservation District, and the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan partners, Mid-Columbia steelhead, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are now re-establishing themselves in more than 20 newly accessible miles of healthy creek habitat.

“By working together, creating trust and relationships among the Yakama Nation, agencies, and the irrigators, we’re really turning things around and getting fish where they need to be to recover,” said Eberhart, manager of the Kittitas Reclamation District (KRD), one of the partners in the 2016 removal of Reed Diversion Dam and restoration of the Manastash and its tributaries. “That cooperation is not only making the difference, it’s how it happened. It’s what made this progress possible.”

“The local collaboration that opened the upper reaches of the Manastash illustrates the kind of focused, coordinated efforts that federal agencies are now working to bring to bear on behalf of steelhead elsewhere in the mid-Columbia,” said Rosemary Furfey of NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, chair of the Federal Caucus. The Federal Caucus is a coordinating organization of 10 federal agencies with roles in the recovery of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.

The Caucus is now working to support mid-Columbia steelhead through focused federal coordination that will improve the viability of the species and move it closer to recovery. The agencies are coordinating efforts around mid-Columbia steelhead because it has shown progress over the last decade and may be approaching the point where it could be considered for removal from the list of threatened and endangered species. Much of this progress is a result of restoration efforts such as those on the Manastash.

“This is one place where if we bring people together, and really coordinate efforts, we may be able to make a real difference for this species and demonstrate success in recovering a species,” Furfey said.
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Federal agencies active in restoring the Manastash and recovering its steelhead populations include the Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries. Manastash Creek reaches into the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and stands out among tributaries of the Yakima River because much of its watershed remains undeveloped and in public ownership.

The Yakama Nation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Kittitas County Conservation District, and Trout Unlimited have also played critical roles.

“Our accomplishments for this steelhead species are remarkable,” said Lorri Bodi, Vice President of Environment, Fish, and Wildlife at BPA, one of the agencies helping fund the project. “Working together to remove the dam has allowed more fish to make it to their traditional spawning grounds, boosting survival, and adding fish to the river.”

Irrigators on the Manastash have worked almost since mid-Columbia steelhead were listed as threatened in 1999 to improve conditions for the fish. Although tension first prevailed as environmental groups threatened to go to court for better protection of the fish, a cooperative steering committee of irrigators, agency representatives, and other organizations began pursuing conservation improvements, such as screening of irrigation diversions that would support fish recovery while also maintaining farms and other agricultural operations across the watershed.

“This is a place that has really exemplified how far you can go when you have good backing from the community that sees the benefit in improving conditions for fish,” said Michael Tehan, Assistant Regional Administrator for the Interior Columbia Basin Office in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “Now our challenge is to see if we can take this recipe and try to reproduce it in other basins.”

Another example of progress is the Kittitas Reclamation District’s novel use of irrigation canals and ditches to deliver water to stretches of the Manastash and its tributaries that sometimes ran dry in low-water years like this one. Water conservation measures, such as lining of canals and installation of sprinkler systems, funded in large part by BPA, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Bureau of Reclamation, and Washington Department of Ecology have helped free up water that can remain in the streams to support fish.

“Reclamation is pleased to be part of the team that has advanced Manastash Creek Enhancement Project which has produced such positive benefits for both steelhead, an ESA-listed species, and the agricultural community of Manastash Creek; and has made it possible to start the streamflow enhancement supplementation that KRD, Ecology, and Reclamation fully support for other creeks in the Kittitas Valley,” said Wendy Christensen, Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Federal and state agencies have invested nearly $24 million in the Manastash Creek Restoration Project since 2003. While the collective price may seem steep, Tehan said that when agencies align efforts and leverage funding, success is more likely.

For mid-Columbia steelhead, that has proven true. Biologists from the WDFW monitoring the streams with renewed water flows are finding a resurgence of streamside plants and aquatic insects that form the ecological building blocks of healthy fish habitat.

As Eberhart recounts the story of cooperation and progress on the Manastash to others around the Columbia Basin, he has fielded more requests for advice and suggestions on how to undertake similar efforts elsewhere. As climate change puts added pressure on both agriculture and fish populations to make the most of limited water supplies, he said, such conservation and cooperation will become even more important.

“We’re utilizing our canal system to carry water to places where the tributaries need help,” he said. “We’re all focusing on how to find success, and that is a win.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Middle Columbia River Steelhead Recovery Plan, NOAA Fisheries

Yakima Basin Integrated Plan: Habitat and Agricultural Improvements, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Yakima Creeks Replenished: Yakima Integrated Plan saves steelhead habitat, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Idaho’s Wild Steelhead

Give Idaho’s Wild Steelhead a Chance

By Chris Wood, President/CEO
Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

Steelhead Stream


The first time you snorkel a stream, the size of the bugs are disarming. Stoneflies tumbling down the stream look like aquatic dragons bent on taking off a limb. It is an optical illusion, of course.

We were way up in the South Fork of the Salmon River drainage. Hiking in neoprene wet suits in relatively warm weather is never a good idea. It is a downright bad idea when you are gaining several thousand feet in elevation.

I eased into the cold water, and lifted my head and yelled in fake fright to a Forest Service colleague when I saw the first stoneflies drifting down the stream. I eased around some dead-fall, and around a bend, and gasped. There they were. Two steelhead, tails fanning, beat-up, side-by-side.

And not just any steelhead but likely part of the fabled Idaho “B-run” steelhead that spawn primarily in the Salmon and Clearwater rivers. The B-run steelhead are Idaho’s largest, and with good reason, some climb more than 6,000 feet in elevation and traverse more than 800 miles to their natal mountain streams to spawn.

I thought about those two fish when I learned that Idaho had decided to close the steelhead fishing season in Idaho for the year (which typically starts in September and continues into May the next year). Threats of litigation, the Endangered Species Act, and bureaucratic wrangling are part of the official explanation, but the real problem is that there just aren’t enough wild steelhead making it back to Idaho.

The decline of Snake River wild steelhead has been dramatic. In the early 1960s, over 100,000 wild steelhead returned to the Snake River. This year, by Nov. 15, when the vast majority of wild steelhead have already returned, only 11,719 wild steelhead had passed Lower Granite Dam. And fewer than 2,000 of those wild fish are the large B-run steelhead so highly prized by anglers.

Even compared to recent years the 2018 run of wild steelhead is abysmal. The 10-year average wild steelhead return exceeds 39,000.

Lower Granite is the last of the eight federal hydropower dams that span the Columbia and Snake Rivers. It is the last impediment to the several thousand miles of habitat – much of it five-star quality—that awaits salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin if they can get past the dams, and too few do.

While the eight dams that Snake River wild steelhead must pass to reach their spawning grounds are not the only cause of their decline, that gauntlet takes a heavy toll. The last four dams that the fish must pass on the lower Snake River are particularly problematic. Though there is work to be done to reduce losses of Snake River wild steelhead to predators and harvesters downstream in the Columbia, as well as the need to reform hatcheries, overwhelming scientific evidence supports either removal of the four lower Snake River dams or some other way to improve survival as the most effective way to recover Snake River salmon and steelhead to healthy, fishable levels.

The state of Idaho has spent millions of dollars restoring wild steelhead and salmon habitat in the Snake River Basin. Similarly, Idaho farmers have reduced their irrigation withdrawals from the Snake to help young salmon and steelhead with their downstream migration through the predator-filled, slackwater reservoirs that sit behind each of the four Lower Snake dams. Cold water is released from Dworshak dam on the Clearwater to help cool the lethally hot water in the lower Snake River reservoirs during the summer months when adult wild steelhead and salmon return.

These measures, while certainly helpful, have not stopped the decline of Idaho’s wild steelhead and salmon.

Idahoans are incredibly proud of their wild salmon and steelhead. For 40 years they have been willing to shoulder sacrifices to ensure their return to their natal mountain streams. At some point, however, they will begin to question the benefit of the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent on wild steelhead and salmon without a clear path to recovery.

Let’s hope they do so soon. Time is running out for Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.

Read more on trout conservation at www.tu.org.

Remote Pond Survey Project

Maine’s Remote Pond Survey Project

Seasonal Technicians Chris Introne and Dan Perry haul in a gill net while surveying an Unnamed Pond
By MDIFW Fisheries Biologist Merry Gallagher
from The Fishing Wire

Doing a pond survey


The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Fisheries Division Native Fish Conservation Group completed another successful and perhaps the last summer of remote pond surveys in 2018.

Since 2011, MDIFW has teamed with volunteer anglers from Trout Unlimited and Maine Audubon to systematically survey pond habitats in Maine that had never been surveyed to assess fish community structure, determine basic water quality or aquatic habitat condition. When the effort began, almost 600 presumed ponds were identified from maps as having never been surveyed, but ‘the list’ was eventually pared down to 533 mapped features more indicative of ponds.

The Remote Pond Survey was set up as a two-step process – first, volunteer anglers with Maine Audubon and Trout Unlimited would visit a pond and by following a protocol established by all three partners (IFW, MA, TU) would record valuable information regarding how to access these remote ponds and also provide information on their fishing, such as species caught or detected, evidence of fishing activity occurring at the pond, and observations regarding habitat condition and water quality.

Old log structure


The remains of an old log driving structure on the outlet of Little Bog Pond.

These results provided by anglers contributed to waters being ranked for their likelihood of having wild brook trout populations or being coldwater fish habitat (Table 1) so that IFW biologists could concentrate our efforts on surveying waters that held the most promise for adding additional wild brook trout populations and their habitats to our roster of surveyed waters. The waters that IFW staff survey through a standard protocol estimates fish community structure, develops a basic map of the habitat, estimates pond depth and bathymetry, and measures basic water quality is phase 2 of the process.

Over seven years of effort, the volunteer survey ranked about 460 of the initial 533 remote presumed ponds with a Priority Code and referred that list to MDIFW for potential further action. Since 2012, MDIFW Fishery Biologists have been surveying remote ponds with Priority Codes of 1, 2 or 3. Although a large portion of this effort has been conducted by the Department’s native fish conservation group based in Bangor, regional staff have also conducted a fair share of these surveys and have assisted the Department’s native fish conservation group on occasion over the years.

Pond Brook Trout


Seasonal Technician Dan Perry with some wild brook trout sampled during a remote pond survey.

For the 2018 summer field season, the Department’s native fish conservation group staff conducted 46 remote pond surveys and we have added survey information to MDIFW databases for 196 waters total, of which 95 support previously undocumented populations of wild brook trout, since this effort began. We are thrilled to report that all ponds with a Priority Code of 1 or 2 are now completed and of the ponds remaining on the list, some are scheduled for survey in upcoming years by regional staff, most are ranked with Priority Codes of 4 or 5 and therefore do not likely warrant further effort, and less than 10 ponds with a Priority Code of 3 remain for consideration of future effort.

This has been a very large and dedicated effort by many! It was a monumental task to whittle a list of 533 unsurveyed presumed remote ponds down to a handful remaining in less than ten years. Without the dedication from the many volunteers, MA and TU, IFW staff and leadership, we would not be here today with a now largely completed Remote Pond Survey. Well done all!

Table 1. Priority Codes given to remote ponds based on Volunteer Angler Survey results
1 BKT caught by volunteer or present based on credible evidence
2 BKT possible, unconfirmed report, good water or habitat quality, etc.
3 BKT somewhat possible but not as likely as a Priority 2
4 Little to no expectation of finding BKT
5 Most likely will not be visited because of poor habitat, water quality, etc

Pond Headwaters Survey


Assessing the condition of an inlet to Little Mucalsea Pond as part of our standard pond survey protocol.

Comeback of Greenback Cutthroat

Colorado Parks & Wildlife Works Toward Comeback of Greenback Cutthroat

By Jason Clay, Colorado Parks & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

Green Cutthroat Trout making a comeback


HERMAN GULCH, Colo. – Something fishy is taking place up at the headwaters of Clear Creek, and that is exactly what aquatic biologists for Colorado Parks and Wildlife were hoping to see when they went looking for the native greenback cutthroat trout.

The history of the greenbacks has been well documented – they have traversed through turbulent waters and were once thought to be extinct – but now CPW has evidence that Colorado’s state fish is making a successful return in its ancestral waters.

CPW aquatic biologist Boyd Wright and his team has been stocking greenbacks into the Clear Creek headwaters four miles above I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel for the past three years.

After a seemingly unsuccessful plant of 4,000 hatchlings in the Herman Gulch stream in 2016 – few had survived the winter – aquatic biologists persisted and their conservation efforts are now paying off.

“It has been a long road with lots of hard work by some really good and passionate people, but it is very gratifying to see these encouraging results for the greenback cutthroat trout,” Wright said on Thursday, Sept.13, following a population survey conducted at Herman Gulch.

Wright and his team replanted greenbacks into the Herman Gulch waters in both 2017 and 2018. They stocked nearly 1,000 one-year-old fish and just under 10,000 young-of-year fish, i.e. hatchlings, in 2017, and another 900 one-year-old fish earlier this summer.

“We’ve documented all of those cohorts of fish here today, which is good,” Wright said streamside sitting at roughly 11,500-feet underneath Pettingell Peak.

For the population survey, Wright and his team took three population samples on the stream, using electroshocking to capture the fish on the chosen 100-yard segments. After netting the fish, they were measured and weighed for documentation, as well as examined to see which planting group and year they came from.

Wright then took the results from the three samples and was able to calculate a population estimate. He found a 30 percent survival/retention rate of the of the 1,000 fish that were stocked at yearlings in 2017 and estimated the total population at 435 fish/mile.

“That may not sound all that well, but it is actually quite good,” Wright said. “We expect that not all of the fish will be able to survive and we set the stocking number accordingly, so I’m really happy to see that level of survival in the system.”

A 30 percent estimated retention rate on the one-year-old greenbacks that have been stocked into the system to date is extremely encouraging.

It could be the start of a massive success story for Colorado’s state fish that has boomed and busted over the past century. Wright is now bullish on the conservation effort for the greenback.

“The long-term goal of this project is to have a self-sustaining population of pure greenback cutthroat trout that doesn’t require any maintenance with stocking,” Wright said. “We are stocking it now to try to load the system up with fish and once we get to the point where we have reached a good density of fish in the system, we’ll stop stocking.”

The target for that is 2019, but in the meantime, Wright and his team are doubling down on their efforts. Two weeks after the population survey, they were back stocking more greenbacks into Herman Gulch.

To get that self-sustaining population, evidence of what biologists call “recruitment” needs to take place. The scientists need to see signs of the fish reproducing.

The first year to look for that evidence will be in 2019 when Wright predicts that the fish they have stocked will be reproductively mature. In 2020, they will be able to tell that the fish that are spawned in 2019 have been recruited into the population.

“I think by 2020 we will have a sense if this is working or not and everything that we know about this system so far, the fish that were here previously were a hybrid cutthroat and they did really well in this stream,” Wright said. “The water temperature is suitable for trout recruitment, we know that, and it’s a pretty productive stream for such a small stream. The expectation is that these fish will do well here.”

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CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.