Category Archives: Trout and Salmon

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.”

-30-

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!