Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hook, Line, and Sinker- A Day of Fun and Fishing

Dworshak National Fish Hatchery (Hatchery) had its 22nd annual Kid’s Fishing Day on May 12, 2012. The Hatchery partnered with the Nez Perce Tribe and held the event at Tunnel Pond just east of Orofino, ID. Hatchery volunteers and staff, along with local volunteers from the Clearwater Sheriff’s department, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Nez Perce National Forest, and the local school district helped bring this year’s event together.

Fishing opened at 8:00 for kids 14 and under. The Hatchery, Nez Perce Tribe, and local vendors provided poles, bait, nets and expertize to assist youth in their day of fishing. Each child was allowed two fish and no kid went home empty handed!

The morning was cool and the fish were hungry so it didn’t take long to reach the 2 fish limit. But there was much more for the children to do besides fish! Volunteers were on hand to help kids make artful fishing flies, create Japanese fish prints, and color origami fish. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) brought out their marco invertebrate collection and gave children insect nets to investigate aquatic life in Tunnel Pond. Nez Perce National Forest (USFS) staff taught kids about local fish and their life cycles. Clearwater County Sheriff deputies brought out their jet skis and taught the kids about water safety. The Nez Perce Tribe put up a teepee and the Ess-kah-po Powwow committee served a delicious breakfast and lunch.

The event had 98 registered kids, up 60% from last year. Staff helped net fish, bait hooks, provide casting lessons, iced caught fish, and provided fish cleaning lessons.  It was a wonderful spring day and everyone had a great time.

This event would not have been possible without the commitment from our Hatchery volunteers, the Nez Perce Tribe, the IDFG, the Clearwater County Sheriff Department, the USFS, the Guide Shop, and funding from the LSRCP.

text and photos by Angela Feldmann

Friday, May 18, 2012

Eyes on a River

On my drive in to work I typically pass by 6 or so Osprey, Pandion haliaetus. They are usually perched in Cottonwood trees like sentinels guarding some secret of the River that I wish I knew.  I have noticed something about these birds recently, although their brown and white coloration is distinct, the color patterns don’t appear to be the same from bird to bird; just as all zebras have black and white stripes, no two zebra’s stripes are the same. So I got to wondering, can you identify an individual osprey by the color pattern of its feathers?
credit: SDGFP

Like any good researcher I googled, “osprey feather patterns”. I struck out. All I found were general descriptions of the overall color pattern and habits of this species. Determined, I tried another search but again the information was general. “Dark brown and white raptor that prey’s solely on fish.”Sure that there was a better answer out there, I decided to try Google’s cousin, Google Scholar, where true geeks go for answers. I typed in “Osprey Coloration Patterns” and, alas, a 1994 article titled, Field Identification of Individual Ospreys Using Head Marking Pattern from the Journal of Wildlife Management was at the top of the list.
credit: USFWS

Researchers in France were able to identify 39 birds based on the feather patterns on their heads and then observe these birds over several years without disturbing (banding or capturing)them. The scientists found color pattern variation to be most distinct on the top of the head, but overall feather patters were different between individuals too. So, like the zebra, all osprey may look the same, but if you look a little closer you can see they are different.

credit: USFWS
By Angela Feldmann

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Outta Here!

Springtime is busy at the Dworshak Hatchery.  The smolts have left via truck and forced release into the Clearwater river and its tributaries.  They will ride the spring freshet (high water) down the Clearwater river and into the Snake River system.  Once in the Snake, they will first encounter Lower Granite Dam.  Many of the smolts will be trapped in the smolt bypass system and loaded onto barges for the remaining trip down the Snake and Columbia Rivers.  Some of the smolts are PIT tagged and released back into the hydro system to evaluate the effects of barging.
Crowded steelhead smolts await release

On the Hatchery, releasing fish is a one to two week process in early April.  Chinook salmon smolts are generally released onsite, called “direct release”, into the North Fork Clearwater River.  The fish are forced out of the raceways with crowding screens rather than volitionally released (leave on their own accord).  This process generally takes one to two days.  The hatchery crew releases the smolts in the evening hours when the light levels are low and the seagulls are less apt to spot the young fish.  This strategy gives the young fish the cover of darkness to disperse from the hatchery and avoid initial predation.
Crowding steelhead smolts to the release channel
Steelhead smolts "direct released" to the Clearwater River

About half, 1.2 million, of Dworshak’s steelhead smolts are direct released into the Clearwater river.  The steelhead smolts are significantly bigger than the Chinook salmon smolts (8 inches versus 5 inches), and suffer less bird predation.  The direct release smolts are also forced out with crowders, but are allowed to volitionally release from the transfer channels.  Most of the steelhead swim out quickly, within 1 to 2 days after being forced from the Burrows Ponds.
Getting ready to pump steelhead onto on "off-site" release truck
The remaining steelhead smolts, 1 million, are transported by semi-tanker trucks to offsite release areas in the South Fork of the Clearwater River.  These releases provide fisheries and restoration benefits in the upper reaches of the South Fork.  The smolts are sucked onto the trucks with large fish pumps.  These pumps are specially designed not to damage the young fish when they traverse through the pump impeller.  Once in the transport tanks, the smolts are provided with oxygen and aeration for their trip to the release sites.  The transport times vary between 1 to 2 hours.  Once at the release sites, the fish are released through a large release tube – much like a waterslide for fish!
Releasing steelhead smolts from the transport truck

by Nate Wiese

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's Free! It's Fun! It's Kid's Fishing Day!

We are gearing up for Dworshak’s 22nd annual Kid's Fishing Day. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, May 12 from 8:00 am-3:00 pm at Tunnel Pond, near Orofino, ID. The Hatchery will provide all fishing gear, bait, and ice for your catch and will even teach you how to fish. If you are 12 and younger all you need to do is grab an adult and come out to the Pond.
Many agencies are joining forces to make this year’s Kid’s Fishing Day fun and educational. Kids can practice the art of Gyotaku, Japanese fish printing, can create large colorful flies, and can learn all about fishing, fish and what fish eat! Esskah Po Pow Wow will be selling food so you can grab a bite and stay all day!

As in years past, parking at Tunnel Pond is limited so there will be a free shuttle from the parking lot below Orofino High School, Riverside Ave, to the pond.

This is a great chance for kids and their families to get outside, enjoy nature, and catch a few fish!
Hope to see you there!!!
If you have any questions post in the comments or call Dworshak at (208)-476-4591.