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Redfish sockeye salmon recovery could provide model for preventing other extinctions

The recovery of Redfish Lake sockeye salmon from the brink of extinction could become a model to prevent other extinctions, the AP reports; two fisheries biologists have a report in the journal Fisheries laying out how. A key strategy has been maintaining genetic diversity that has resulted in a greater number of sockeye with better survival skills, resulting in more fish returning to Redfish Lake, the scientists found. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Keith Ridler.

Kokanee provide fall color near Sullivan Lake

PUBLIC LANDS — Sullivan Lake is a great option for getting out this weekend to enjoy fall colors — on the forest and on the fish!

The Western larch needles are turning yellow and the crimson-colored kokanee are running from the lake into Harvey Creek where they are ripe for easy viewing.

Huge schools of these bright red beauties can be seen from the bridge or creek bank at the south end of the lake as the fish pair with mates for spawning. 

"This intense and exciting event is important to the survival of the species," says Franklin Pemberton of the Colville National Forest. Visitors are asked to avoid harassing the fish or disturbing the streambed.

The run typically lasts until the middle of December.

Females dig a redd (deposit site) to lay eggs and within a few days die.  Their decaying bodies provide nutrients to the creek and Sullivan Lake vital to the growth of plankton and insect life that will feed next year’s young.  The dying salmon also feed animals like bald eagles, raccoons, and mink.  Kokanee eggs hatch in February and remain in the gravel until spring where they are swept away into Sullivan Lake to start another cycle.

DIRECTIONS:  From Highway 31 south of Ione, take County Road 9345 toward the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station and Sullivan Lake.  The bridge over Harvey Creek is at the south end of the lake. Harvey Creek is closed to fishing.

Info:  (509) 446-7500. 


Pacific Fishery panel meets Sept. 10-17 in Spokane

FISHERIES — The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet Wednesday for a week-long session, Sept. 10-17, in Spokane to address issues related to groundfish, highly migratory species, coastal pelagic species, salmon, ecosystem management and habitat matters.

Sessions will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Ct.

The PFMC, which meets five times a year, is one of eight regional fishery management councils established in 1976. The council's decisions have an impact on commercial and recreational fishing.

The 14 voting representatives from Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho — assisted by advisory bodies and 16 staffers — have jurisdiction over 119 fish species in a 317,690 square mile economic zone off the Pacific Coast. 

Agenda items for the Spokane meeting include:

  • Electronic monitoring regulations and seasons for groundfish fisheries.
  •  Protection for unmanaged forage fish.
  • Fishing permits for swordfish.
  • Columbia River natural coho harvest rules.
  •  2015 Pacific halibut fishing regulations.

The sessions, which are open to the public, will attract a wide range of interest groups. 

Forage fish conservation issues, for example, are key to a wide range of fish species and wildlife, says Erik Robinson of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The trust's ocean conservation experts will be at the meeting to support "the council's efforts to improve protection of little fish prey fish — 'forage fish' like sardines, anchovies and smelts — that eat plankton and, in turn, are eaten by seabirds, marine mammals, and bigger fish like Northwest salmon and steelhead," Robinson said.

"Over the past three years, the PFMC has made steady step-by-step progress to marshal protection of forage fish species that aren’t currently managed on the West Coast. Some of these species – like Pacific saury, sand lance, and lanternfish – are obscure to the general public but they occupy a critical space in the middle of the ocean food web," he said.

"Many are already fished heavily elsewhere around the world. So we believe it makes sense for our West Coast fishery leaders to put basic conservation measures in place as soon as possible, before industrial-scale fisheries begin."

See more information and a video on the importance of forage fish for Columbia basin salmon.

Canada’s massive mining dam failure reinforces opposition to Pebble Mine in Alaska

FISHING — Just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has opened another round of comments on the controversial proposal to authorized the Pebble Mine near the headwaters of Alaska's prized Bristol Bay salmon fisheries, a disaster in Canada has struck an emphatic case in point.

Monday’s devastating tailings dam failure at the Mount Polley copper mine in British Columbia sent an estimated 4.5 million cubic meters of mine waste solids and 2.6 billion gallons of mine waste liquids into streams, rivers, and lakes in the headwaters of the Fraser River watershed. 

  • See an aerial survey of the impacts in the video above.

The massive release of materials from a mine tailings pond near Quesnel is “virtually impossible to clean up,” according to a marine researcher — and may have already damaged salmon habitat beyond repair.

Dr. Peter Ross heads Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean pollution research program and said on Wednesday the spill likely spells death for the fish that use the affected waterways.

Missoula-based Bonnie Gestring makes a few sobering comparisons between the Mount Polley Mine in a post on Earth Island Journal:

  • Both mines are large, open pit, copper porphyry mines at the headwaters of important salmon streams.
  • The company behind the proposed Pebble Mine, the Pebble Limited Partnership, has repeatedly pointed to the Fraser River as an example of a watershed where mining and fish can coexist.
  • Knight Piesold, the firm that provided designs for the tailings pond lifts at Mount Polley, also provided the designs for the tailings pond for the proposed Pebble Mine.

Moreover, a consulting firm in 2011 warned the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment that a contingency plan was needed should the tailings pond holding mining waste at the Mount Polley Mine fail.  No contingencies were made.

"It is the toxic time bomb explosion that all of us who've fought the Pebble Mine have predicted could happen," writes of the National Resource Defense Council in the Huffington Post.

The Environmental Protection Agency has already taken the first step to stop development of the Pebble Mine under the Clean Water Act, but the agency opened up the process for one more public comment period before making a final decision.

Care to comment?

  • Here's an update and another video from the Vancouver Sun.

Latest federal plan for Columbia salmon challenged

Conservation groups and salmon advocates have challenged the Obama administration's latest plan for making Columbia Basin dams safe for salmon, the AP reports. The challenge was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, which oversees salmon protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the dams. It was the seventh challenge since the lawsuit was originally filed in 2001; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jeff Barnard in Portland.

Colville Hatchery site a natural jewel

CONSERVATION — My Sunday Outdoors feature story focused on the Colville Fish Hatchery and how it's been transformed into a science classroom for the area's high school students.

But it can't be overemphasized that the hatchery Stevens County acquired from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department came with 19.4 acres surrounding the springs that form the headwaters of Colville Creek — another natural laboratory for the students.

They've barely scratched the surface of the area's potential, sampling variety of aquatic insects that trout need when they're weened off the fish feed and putting out trail cams to monitor the deer — and cougars — that wander through the little preserve that's nestled in a Colville neighborhood.

Kathy Ahlenslager, Colville national Forest botanist, had this observation of the property:

The site has patiently waited for a group to care for it.  For 19 acres in town it's diverse with at least 142 plant species in 42 families, including two rare ones:  giant helliborine orchid (Epipactis gigantea) and bristly sedge (Carex comosa).  And every weed from this area!  First on the list will be to tame the Virginia creeper on the cedars and the rampant hounds tongue!

Indeed, Jono Esvelt, forestry and wildlife instructor and hatchery manager for the school district, will be having students clip and bag the hounds tongue plants in a long-term plan to reduce the amount of seed they scatter on the landscape.

You say you don't know what hounds tongue is?  

I guess you don't have a long-haired bird dog.

Hatchery fish are slow pokes, WSU study finds

FISHERIES — This isn't the first study to find that hatchery-reared salmonids tend to be inferior in one way or another to wild trout, steelhead and salmon, but it's the latest.

The report is released a day after Washington designated three steelhead rivers to be sanctuaries for wild fish by ending hatchery releases.

 Following is the just-released story by Washington State University science writer Eric Sorenson regarding the latest research:

Washington State University researchers have documented dramatic differences in the swimming ability of domesticated trout and their wilder relatives. The study calls into question the ability of hatcheries to mitigate more than a century of disturbances to wild fish populations.

Kristy Bellinger, who did the study for her work on a Ph.D. in zoology, said traditional hatcheries commonly breed for large fish at the cost of the speed they need to escape predators in the wild.

  • See Bellinger discussing her research in this YouTube video

“The use of hatcheries to support declining wild salmon and steelhead is controversial,” said Bellinger. “They have a role as being both a part of the solution in supplementing depleted stocks and as being a hindrance to boosting natural populations, as they often produce fish that look and behave differently from their wild relatives.”

Bellinger conducted the study with Gary Thorgaard, a nationally recognized fish geneticist and professor in WSU’s School of Biological Sciences, and her advisor, Associate Professor Patrick Carter. Their work is published in the journal Aquaculture.

The study used a sort of speed trap for fish, a meter-long plastic tank filled with water and fitted with electronic sensors. Over 10 weeks, Bellinger repeatedly ran 100 clonal (genetically similar) hatchery-raised and semi-wild rainbow trout through the tank, clocking their speed and monitoring their growth from week to week.  The clonal rainbow trout were propagated on the WSU campus.

The domesticated fish tended to grow faster. But while increased size is generally seen as a sign of fitness, the researchers saw that wasn’t the case as far as speed is concerned. “The highly domesticated fish have bigger body sizes but slower swim speeds compared to the more wild lines that are smaller,” said Bellinger. “It is intuitive to think that the more you feed them, the more they’re going to grow, the faster they’re going to be, and that’s what we see within each clonal line.  However, between the lines, the domesticated fish were larger but slower sprinters.”

Over the past century, hatcheries have become a mainstay of recreational fishing, providing millions of trout and other salmonids to lakes and streams. More recently, hatcheries have come to be seen as tools in conserving native stocks. The state of Washington has more than 200 hatcheries, with most producing salmon and steelhead, an ocean-running trout, and about one-fourth producing trout and other game fish.

Hatchery managers, said Bellinger, tend to select for large fish.

“Fish managers want the biggest bang for their buck,” she said. “But if increased size is a tradeoff of sprint speed, as our data show, then we assume hatchery fish are being picked off by predators due to their slower speed, which makes the process of supplementing native fish with hatchery fish an inefficient tool for conservation and a waste of money.”

The research was funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Spokane woman appointed to state Salmon Board

FISHERIES — Samantha Mace of Spokane has been appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the state Recreation and Conservation Office has announced.

The board  administers grants for projects that help return salmon from the brink of extinction.

Mace has extensive professional and volunteer experience in conservation policy and natural resource issues. She is the Inland Northwest director for the Save our Wild Salmon Coalition, where she is responsible for policy, media and outreach for Inland Northwest salmon issues for a coalition of sport fishing groups and businesses, commercial fishing associations, conservation groups and other organizations working to restore wild salmon and steelhead to the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Before joining the coalition, Mace held a long list of other jobs in the conservation world, including working for Trout Unlimited, the Washington Wildlife Federation, the Idaho Wildlife Federation and the ForestWater Alliance in Washington, D.C. She also has been a volunteer on many conservation efforts.

“We are excited to welcome Samantha to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the funding board’s grants. “Her understanding of the issues surrounding the plight of salmon and the many businesses and families that rely on healthy salmon populations will be a great asset to the board. Her knowledge of eastern Washington also will bring a valuable perspective to our work.”

The Washington State Legislature created the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999. Composed of five citizens appointed by the Governor, and five state agency directors, the board brings together the experiences and viewpoints of citizens and the major state natural resource agencies. The board provides grants to protect or restore salmon habitat and assist related activities. Since its start, the board has awarded $564 million for more than 2,280 projects statewide.

Fish, wildlife recreation to get boost from Boundary Dam license approval

UPDATE:  State fish managers say the small fish hatchery to be built under this licensing agreement will be devoted to restoring native cutthroat and bull trout.  Fish for stocking in northeast Washington lakes under the agreement will come from existing hatcheries under a contract between the utility and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

RIVERS — The license for Boundary Dam has met the requirements for approval with no appeals submitted, according to Seattle City Light, and that spells the beginning of projects to improve wildlife habitat, recreational facilities and fisheries along the Pend Oreille River.

The license was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March, but utility officials said today that the final hurdles had been cleared. 

Under the new 42-year license, City Light will be required to mitigate the impacts of the dam to the surrounding environment in Pend Oreille County. These measures include long-term water quality monitoring programs, terrestrial habitat improvements, and wildlife monitoring programs for bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other species.

For example, Mill Pond Dam on Sullivan Creek will be removed under the agreement, clearing the way for fish passage — and kayakers — for the first time since 1909.

A native trout conservation hatchery is planned to raise cutthroats and bull trout that will be planted to help restore the native species in tributaries to the Boundary Reservoir. Required habitat restoration in these tributaries will benefit westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish.

Contracts will be signed with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide fish of various species from other hatcheries to stock in area lakes.

The utility is required to make avariety of recreational improvements in the Boundary project area including:

  • New recreational trails on the east side of the reservoir.
  • New non-motorized boat access with parking and facilities at the Metaline Falls Portage.
  • Upgrading six dispersed recreation sites along the Boundary reservoir, including sanitation systems, picnic tables, fire rings and watercraft land and tie-up areas.
  • Improvements to Metaline Park boat launch in the town of Metaline.
  • New interpretation and education sites throughout the Boundary project area.

“This has been a long and carefully managed process, drawing input from many stakeholders and taking into account wildlife protection, recreational and cultural amenities, and the water quality of the Pend Oreille River,” said City Light General Manager Jorge Carrasco.

Approval of the 42-year license is a critical economic benefit to City Light’s customers and to Pend Oreille PUD customers whose primary source of electricity is low-cost Boundary power, he said

Read on for details about the conclusion of the license renewal process, according to a Seattle City Light media release:

BPA paid $644 million for fish-wildlife in 2012

RIVERS — In Fiscal Year 2012, the Bonneville Power Administration reported $644.1 million in total costs for its federally mandated actions to mitigate the impacts Columbia River Basin hydroelectric development has had on fish and wildlife.

The costs are listed an annual report released last week by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. 

The Northwest Power passed by Congress in 1980 requires BPA, which markets power generated at federal dams in the region, to fund the NPCC programs undertaken by state and federal agencies and some tribes.

Bonneville estimates the grand total expended since 1978, when the costs began, through 2012, is about $13 billion, not including $2.27 billion in capital investments for fish hatcheries and fish passage facilities at dams.

Read on for a summary of the 2012 costs, compiled by the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

NY Times explores source of behemoth cutthroats

FISHING — After my post on a Spokane Fly Fishers outing to catch large Lahontan cutthroat trout at Omak Lake, I received an email from an angler who was surprised.

"When I lived in Omak in 1965-67, we waterskied there and as I remember the lake was very alkaline and nobody fished it," he said. "Is it possible that the lake I remember is another lake?"

"No, it's the same lake," I responded. "But you hit exactly on the reason it is stocked with Lahontan cutthroat trout, a species originating from the southwest and specially adapted to thriving in alkaline waters.  The Lahontan species also is stocked in Lake Lenore and Grimes Lake."

By coincidence, The New York Times has just published a story recounting the successful effort to revive and preserve the Lahontan cutthroat's genetics originating from Pyramid Lake, Nev.

Note:  Check out the NYT photo of the anglers wading out with ladders to get out to deeper water while gaining a higher profile for longer casting.

Will art prevail in state fisheries logo choice?

FISHING — Holy heresy! The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is considering the image of a bass for a logo in its statewide “Fish Washington” campaign.

Actually, that decision already has been made. Instead of taking a stand, the state fisheries managers chose to  have logos featuring both trout and bass.

But the public gets to chime in through February on the graphic technicalities of the logos.

Click here to vote and help choose a pair of new logos that will identify Fish Washington on the web and in other applications.

Road re-routed off Middle Branch LeClerc Creek

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Forest Service has completed a 2.25 mile reroute of Forest Road 1935000 (Middle Branch of LeClerc Creek) north of Newport and east of the Pend Oreille River as part of a larger road relocation and restoration project to benefit water quality and fish habitat.

The re-routed section of road begins near the new bridge crossing of the Middle Branch of LeClerc Creek and has been relocated away from the bottom of the drainage in order to improve the riparian and stream habitat. The old section of road is currently being decommissioned and is no longer open to motor vehicle use. The decommissioning of the 2.6 miles of road along Middle Branch LeClerc Creek includes the removal of fish passage barriers at 4 locations, restoring the stream channel at each of those four stream crossings as well as floodplain re-establishment and re-contouring the road.

Read on for funding sources and details.

Fish extinction greatly accelerated, study shows

CLIMATE CHANGE — Out of sight, out of mind.  Next thing you know, they're extinct.

And it's happening faster than ever to fish species, according to a recent study detailed in a Columbia Basin Bulletin report.

From 1900-2010, freshwater fish species in North America went extinct at a rate 877 times faster than the rate found in the fossil record, while estimates indicate the rate may double between now and 2050, the Bulletin reports.

This new information comes from a U.S. Geological Survey study to be published in the September issue of the journal BioScience.

In the fossil record, one freshwater fish species goes extinct every 3 million years, but North America lost 39 species and 18 subspecies between 1898 and 2006. Based on current trends in threatened and endangered fish species, researchers estimate that an additional 53-86 species of freshwater fish may be extinct by the year 2050.

Since the first assessment of extinct North American freshwater fishes in 1989, the number of extinct fishes increased by 25 percent.

"This study illustrates the value of placing current events into the context of deep geologic time, as rocks preserve an unbiased record of natural rates of processes before human activities began to alter the landscape, the atmosphere, the rivers, and oceans," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.

Miners, conservationists work to protect Idaho trout

RIVERS — Two conservation groups and three phosphate mining companies in eastern Idaho have formed a partnership intended to improve water quality in the Blackfoot River in eastern Idaho.

JR Simplot Company, Monsanto and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have joined with the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited to form the Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation.

The announcement came after a study revealed mutated trout in Idaho streams, possibly related to mining pollution.  The study had been highligted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (above) as well as the New York Times, as featured in this blog post.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit, by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

In the latest story, the Idaho Statesman reports the conservation initiative group had compiled data on fish populations throughout the Upper Blackfoot and completed an assessment of fish passage obstacles and habitat conditions in February.

Monsanto, Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have mines in the so-called phosphate patch near the Idaho-Wyoming border.

Environmental groups have been concerned about selenium pollution from phosphate mining that’s killed livestock and aquatic life in eastern Idaho waterways.

Daily Show sets hook on Simplot connection with two-headed fish in Idaho

FISHERIES — Maybe there's no connection with the two-headed trout being found in Idaho streams and the six selenium mines operated by the J.R.Simplot Co

I mean, who would believe anything in the New York Times.

Maybe there's no involvement with the giant agribusiness and the silence on the research by Idaho politicians who've married into the Simplot family.

But this special video report by Jon Stewart's reporter Aasif Mandvi on The Daily Show last night sure makes an angler think about the possibilities, and have a good laugh about how things operate.

Mutated fish:  another good reason for catch-and-release.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit,  by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

Channel catfish shows amazing itch to travel

FISHING — A channel catfish, of all things, has set the record for traveling the longest distance of any fish in Wyoming fish-tagging history.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department official say the catfish was tagged in June 2007 just below the Kendrick Diversion Dam on Clear Creek east of Sheridan.

Last month, the fish was caught 415-miles away by an angler on the Yellowstone River near Pompey’s Pillar, Mont.

The fish likely traveled down the Powder River into Montana aided by this year’s high water and then turned upstream in the Yellowstone.

Asian carp: if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em

FISHERIES — Asian bighead carp have become a big pain in the rear for fisheries managers and boaters in the Great Lakes region.

To get a sense of the danger they pose to boaters, check out this video of flying carp on the Illinois River.

Illinois officials say some creative thinking about the exotic species might offer a solution to two major problems _ the Asian carp's threatening of the Great Lakes and record numbers of people facing hunger.

In other words, quit carping about the carp and start commercial fisheries to catch them so they can be consumed.

Starting last week, the state's Department of Natural Resources launched a campaign to change the fish's image and teach people how to cook the ultra-bony meat.

Washington lands $4.6 million in federal fisheries habitat grants

FISHERIES — The Inland Northwest netted millions for fish and wildlie habitat restoration from a total of $53 million grants recently awarded from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund primarily aimed at boosting endangered species.

States must contribute a minimum match of 25 percent of the estimated program costs of approved projects, or 10 percent when two or more states or territories implement a joint project.

In Washington, state partners will receive $4.6 million in grants benefiting dozens of species.

The Eastern Washington projects include:

  • Methow Watershed, $3.5 million, for Phase 8, in Okanogan County, Wash., to secure 2,700 acres and additional stream frontage protecting spawning and rearing habitat for listed salmonids, landscape corridors for listed carnivores and their mule deer prey, and habitat for at least 23 at-risk species covered by the Plum Creek Habitat Conservation Plan.
  • Northern Blue Mountains Bull Trout Recovery, $712,650,  (Asotin and Columbia counties) to conserve bull trout habitat through a combination of land acquisition and conservation easements on at least five key properties totaling 2,872 acres along the northern rim of the Umatilla National Forest in both the Touchet River and Asotin Creek watersheds. These efforts will also protect important winter range for populations of elk and deer in the Blue Mountains of southeast Washington, thereby providing the primary food source for natural re-colonization by gray wolves.

Western Montana partners landed $4 million for funding a conservation easement on 9,300 acres of the Stimson Forestlands Conservation Project in Missoula County to benefit fish and wildlife.

See a complete list of the National 2011 grant awards under these programs.

U.S. starting to curb appetite for overfishing

OCEAN FISHERIES — Forty stocks of fish populations are subject to overfishing in U.S. waters, but progress is being made to rebuild stocks and reduce overfishing, federal officials say.

The number of fish populations being fished at too high of a level at the end of 2010 was up by two from 2009, according to an annual report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among the stocks being overfished are cod in the Northeast, red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific bluefin tuna off the West coast.

But officials said many key populations of fish have shown improvement over the years. Twenty-one stocks have been rebuilt to healthy levels since 2000, and three key stocks in the Northeast — Georges Bank haddock, Atlantic pollock and spiny dogfish — reached healthy levels in 2010, said Eric Schwab, the head of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

“We are turning a corner as we see important fish stocks rebounding,” Schwab said in a statement.

Dworshak Reservoir nearly at full pool

BOATING — Dworshak Reservoir is within 5 feet of full pool today. That's lower than normal for the Fourth of July holiday, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still leaving room for the unusually high, late snowpack to pour out of the mountains.

Officials flew the headwaters Tuesday and determined about 10 percent of the area was still snow covered.

“We’ll be at about 1 foot from full pool (1,600 feet) on July 5, and anticipate reaching full pool by July 10,” said Steve Hall, Corps reservoir manager.

All campgrounds and boat ramps are open.

Info: Dworshak Dam Visitor Center, (208) 476-1255. 

Dworshak Dam Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Infected steelhead killed at Dworshak Hatchery

FISHERIES — Managers at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery say they have destroyed 332,000 juvenile summer steelhead since April to protect the rest of the hatchery’s fish from a deadly virus.

In April, 240,000 steelhead were destroyed after IHNV was confirmed in some rearing tanks by the Idaho Fish Health Center.

Officials say they still expect to have enough fish to meet their requirements for mitigating the impacts of Dworshak Dam on wild fisheries.

Read on for details.

Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Spokane

FISHERIES — Although the group is a bit off our inland radar, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and its advisory bodies are making important decisions that affect our ocean fisheries and the returns of salmon and steelhead to our inland waters. 

And the group is deliberating and hearing presentations in public meetings right here in Spokane this week.

The council's meeting started Monday and runs through the weekend ending next Monday at the DoubleTree Hotel Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Ct., to address issues related to salmon, groundfish, coastal pelagic species, highly migratory species and habitat matters.

One key decision will be whether to move ahead with ecosystem management on ocean fisheries, says Erik Robinson of the Pew Environment Group.

Conserving forage fish is an emerging topic, with a California forage fish protection law that just passed out of the Assembly last week, and newly published research on forage fish is catching attention.  

Read on for more agenda items and details.

Clark Fork River a foot over flood stage

RIVERS — The Clark Fork River was a foot over flood stage in Missoula on Tuesday, the Missoulian reports.

The Montana river was predicted to rise another couple of feet by Thursday as rainfall and snowmelt increased flows.

This isn't good news for anglers with an itch to get out for traditional June hatches.

Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop fishing report:

Rock Creek is unfishable, and that's probably an understatement.  Look for it to get bigger with the rain and warm weather we are supposed to get at the end of the week.  We might just have to day dream about salmonflies this year.   

Most of Western Montana and parts of Idaho are under flood warnings.

Clark Fork fish are using new passage past Thompson Falls Dam

FISHERIES —  The new upstream fish ladder at the Thompson Falls Dam and hydropower project in Thompson Falls, Mont., has opened and apparently fish such as bull trout and rainbows have started moving freely past the structure since April.

The fish ladder was completed and dedicated last fall.

The report  comes from GEI Consultants Inc., the firm selected by PPL Montana to provide ecological and engineering services for the project. The story is published today at HydroWorld.com.  

The $7.5 million project
is designed to provide endangered bull trout and other fish varieties unhindered access to hundreds of miles of the upstream Clark Fork River and its tributaries.

Read on for more details.

Learn about fish of Montana’s Fish Creek

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fisheries biologist, Ladd Knotek, will present a free program about the population and health of fish in the Fish Creek drainage on Saturday, 7 p.m., at Big Pine Fishing Access Site Campground.

That's right off I-90 west of Alberton. Take  Exit 66.  Head south to Fish Creek Road and drive 4.5 miles from I-90 to the Big Pine Campground. Bring a lawn chair and dress for a Montana evening.

Massive fish kill reported at Lake Rufus Woods

FISHERIES — Owners of Pacific Seafood say the dissolved gasses resulting from increased flows out of Grand Coulee Dam are killing up to 100,000 large rainbow trout a day in the commercial net pens downstream.

The fish are raised in the Lake Rufus Woods net pens for sale and for stocking the Colville Indian Reservation lakes.   The fish also help nurture a popular rainbow trout sport fishery.

Pacific Seafood officials called on the Bureau of Reclamation to alter the way it’s coping with flood-stage flows out of Grand Coulee, although the resolution isn't clear since the Columbia River is flooding in its lower reaches.

 “If this practice isn’t stopped immediately, it will result in more than $30 million in economic damage to our company alone,” Craig Urness, Pacific Seafood spokesman said today.

“There are currently 2.7 million fish still living on the fish farm that are being threatened by this environmental and economic catastrophe.”

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists had not investigated the fish kill.  They said wild fish outside the net pens would likely have the opportunity to detect poor water conditions and move to safer waters.  However, they couldn't say for certain today.

Dam reaches goal of 93 percent fish passage

FISHING — Improvements in operating Rock Island Dam will allow survival of at least 93 percent of the young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream, according to the Chelan County PUD.

The utility had to be able reach the 93-percent survival goal to meet federal criteria for boosting spring chinook, steelhead and sockeye runs.

The fish-survival debate regarding the region’s Columbia River dams began in the late 1970s and ’80s, with federal and state agencies and tribes mandating what PUDs had to do to improve fish survival numbers.

Each dam has its own plan for reaching the goals.

Rock Island Dam is fitted with fish ladders that mature fish use to get around the dam on their homeward migration to spawn. But it has no bypass system for young, ocean-bound fish. Spill is the method used to transport the fish downstream.