Friday, June 29, 2012

Salmon Fishing the North Fork Clearwater River

Above Dworshak Hatchery, the Dworshak Dam looms in the not so distant horizon.  Stretching 700 feet in the air, the Dam impounds the North Fork of the Clearwater River.  Chinook salmon returning to the Dworshak Hatchery swarm into the 1 mile of flowing river below the Dam in their bid to reach ancestral spawning grounds.  The Hatchery traps these returning adults for the next brood year of fish.  However, only about 1,000 fish are needed for the Hatchery broodstock.  The remaining salmon are available for sport and Tribal harvest.

A North Fork Spring Chinook Salmon caught below the Highway 7 Bridge
Salmon fishing in the North Fork generally picks up around the end of May and continues through June.  The North Fork River has many readily accessible fishing areas.  But, read the regulations carefully, because no sport fishing is allowed on the Dworshak Point or below the Railroad Bridge from the Highway 7 Bridge.  Anglers also flock below the Dworshak Dam where handicap accessible fishing is available.  The East side of the North Fork is owned by the Corps of Engineers and a walking path will take bank anglers to the base of the Dam.
Anglers Fishing the Highway 7 Bridge just above the Hatchery Intake

The North Fork receives a lot of fishing pressure and the best spots will have multiple anglers fishing.  Be respectful of other anglers.  For rookies, it is a good idea to watch for awhile before you barge in at areas like the Dworshak Dam or the Highway 7 Bridge.  After you have observed for awhile, politely ask someone where you could fit in.  Most anglers will point you in a good direction, because everyone catches fish when anglers are cooperating.  However, keep in mind that the best spots are secured several hours before legal fishing hours, so elbowing into the middle of the hole may not win you friends.
A common bobber and jig set-up for the North Fork

When you are ready to fish, observe what other anglers are using.  If they are fishing bobbers, then use a bobber.  If they are “plunking” with lead and spin and glows, then ask how much weight they are using.  Matching the fishing style reduces ensnaring your gear with another angler and will be appreciated.  If someone hooks a fish, you are expected to reel in your gear so they can pass behind you to the netting areas.  Do not leave your gear out.  If the fish is lost, you are likely to be recruited to retrieve it – head first!  Everyone will reel up for you if you hook a fish too, so don’t worry, your kindness will be repaid.
A angler finds a hole to himself on the east side of the North Fork

If fishing next to other anglers isn’t your thing, try the trail along the east side of the river.  There, you can fish many holes by yourself with a short walk.  Keep in mind, fishing in the North Fork is best immediately in the morning and just before dark.  There is no sport fishing allowed at night, so check the regulations for fishing times.  Salmon generally hold in water greater than 10 feet deep, but will travel through shallower areas in the mornings and evenings.

Most bank anglers use bobbers and jigs to fish for salmon.  The local tackle shops stock plenty of equipment.  
Boat anglers can also access the North Fork-and find some success at times!

Good luck and Tight lines!

by Nate Wiese

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Fish Health Experience

Hello!  My name is Johnny Shelley and I am a 4th year veterinary student at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.  I had the good fortune to just complete a four week clinical externship at the Idaho Fish Health Center and Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, and I wanted to share some of the experiences I had while visiting the beautiful northwest for the first time.
I am actually a veterinary student odd ball in that I went to veterinary school with the sole intention of specializing in the area of aquatic animal medicine with an emphasis in fish health.  I wanted to make sure that during my clinical rotations I was exposed to a variety of different aquatic animal health settings since I don’t know where my career may take me.  I initially contacted the Olympia Fish Health Center about doing an externship that specialized in the area of cold water fish diseases.  Fortunately for me their availability did not fit mine, so they suggested that I should contact the Idaho Fish Health Center.  After contacting the center I got a quick response from the center’s veterinarian, Dr. Marilyn “Guppy” Blair, and she was very receptive to my coming out to learn and work.  It turns out that I lucked out by doing my externship at the Idaho Fish Health Center because it is not only on the grounds of the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, but it is also works very closely with various Nez Perce Tribal hatcheries and acclimation sites.
I drove into Orofino/Ahsahka on April 22nd and I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the land and the unique location of the Idaho Fish Health Center.  On my first day at the center I was immediately welcomed in and treated as a part of the team.  After learning a little bit about the wild fish health survey that is annually conducted at the fish health center from fish health specialist Laura Sprague, she took me to the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery at Cherry Lane to do monthly monitoring on their Fall Chinook Salmon.  Monthly fish health check monitoring is done at all Nez Perce hatcheries and acclimation sites, in addition to being conducted at the Dworshak Hatchery, to ensure that disease does not run rampant prior to release, as well as minimizing the release of fish carrying disease in to the wild.  During health checks, gill clips and skin scrapes are taken to look for possible parasites and infectious bacteria.  Additionally, fish necropsies are performed to observe any potential abnormalities and samples of the spleen, kidney and gill are taken for viral and bacterial monitoring.  I was able to travel to Kooskia National Fish Hatchery with Dr. Blair to perform health monitoring on the spring Chinook salmon that are held there. I also traveled with fish health specialist Rick Cordes to the North Lapwai Valley acclimation site to pick up Fall Chinook Salmon sub-yearlings to bring back to the lab for their health check.   
 Dr. Blair showed me how to perform enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), which are screening tests for disease where specific antibodies are used to detect for the presence or absence of a specific antigen.  Enzyme-linked secondary antibodies are also added to the samples along with a chemical that is converted by the enzyme into a color if the sample is positive for the antigen.  The presence and quantity of the antigen can be measured by light absorbance through a spectrophotometer.   ELISA is predominately used at the Idaho Fish Health Center to detect for the presence of Renibacterium salmoninarum which is the causative agent of Bacterial Kidney Disease.  During my stay I also learned about the methods that are utilized to detect viruses in aquacultured fish.  The center’s virologist, Corie Samson, showed me how they culture cell lines which are used to check for the presence or absence of viruses, primarily infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) and infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN) viruses.  I also learned the methods for viral plating and extractions.  Fish that are positive for viruses are culled from the population and the samples are sent off to another laboratory to determine the specific genetic viral strains.  I also was able to expand on my knowledge of quantitative and nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests through the tutelage of both Laura and Rick.  The basics of PCR are that it is used to amplify a specific region of a DNA strand and in fish health can be used to detect and/or identify bacteria and viruses from tissue culture assays.  I also was shown by Rick how surveillance is done for Nucleospora salmonis and Myxobolus cerebralis which is the causative agent of whirling disease.  Whirling disease can cause bone destruction and it is detected by digesting the skull bones of fish and looking for M. cerebralis spores in the dissolved “skull soup” that is left over.  Definitive diagnosis of whirling disease and many of the other cold water fish diseases can be done by histology.  Histology is the study of microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues, and is commonly performed by sectioning and staining samples on glass slides so that they may then be observed through light microscopy.  Dr. Blair took the time to show me how the process of preparing a histology slide is conducted and even let me attempt to section some tissue samples for myself.  Additionally I was able to go through a histology slide set and observe various normal tissues and tissues that were infected with common bacteria and viruses.  
In addition to my duties in the health lab, I was also able to take part in other activities at the Dworshak Hatchery and in the surrounding communities.  On one of my Saturdays I was able to take part in some of the fish production duties that are conducted at the hatchery.  I spent my morning in the hatchery with fish culturist Rick Allain where he showed me how to do hourly feedings and raceway cleanings for the steelhead fry.  I spent my afternoon with the hatchery manager Mark Drobish, where he showed me how they feed and clean the raceways for the Fall and Spring Chinook Salmon fingerlings.  He also took me around and showed me how the water is pumped into the hatchery facility, and how it is degassed and maintained in order to rear healthy fish.  I think both Rick and Mark had confidence in me in the fact I was a veterinary student who had prior knowledge and experience with fish, which I guess is not the norm for externing students, because both of them left me to my work without really hovering over me or double checking everything I did.  I also was able to be a part of a couple of outreach opportunities, which I understand can be very important in getting community support.  I went with Dr. Blair and Corie to Kamiah Elementary where we talked to the 5th grade classes about what the Idaho Fish Health Center does and we went over basic fish anatomy.  Afterwards the students got to split up and we helped them conduct their own fish necropsies, which they seemed to love.  I also got to take part in the annual Kid’s Fishing Day, which I think is a wonderful way to give back to the community and say thank you for their support.  It truly is wonderful to see a child’s face light up when they catch their very first fish.
During the health monitoring of the fall Chinook salmon, conducted at the Dworshak Hatchery, it was noticed that some of the fish were showing a sickle cell appearance of their red blood cells.  Sickle cell in fish has been attributed to folic acid deficiency, anoxia, and lead toxicity.  At the time the raceway of fish were not showing any other visible signs of illness either internally or externally other than some had slightly hemorrhagic and edematous intestines, and it was not believed that any of the above mentioned possibilities were the cause .  The day before I was to leave we were called back to check on the same raceway because some of the fish were showing erratic swimming behavior and appeared to have external “grayish white” lesions on their heads.  We collected some of the fish that were indeed swimming in a lethargic and upside down manner, as well as had the visible lesions.  Upon closer examination the lesions were determined to be a fungus, which was as yet unidentified when I had to leave.  Some of the fish were also still exhibiting the sickle cell shape of their red blood cells.  Unfortunately for me, I had to leave before a definitive diagnosis could be made.  As with all of the fish health monitoring checks we took samples for bacteriology and virology, and since I plan on keeping in touch with the staff at the Idaho Fish Health Center hopefully I will be able to find out what the definitive cause is.   
I truly had a wonderful time and amazing experience during my stay in Idaho.  I certainly hope to stay in touch and hopefully I will be able to come back out for a visit.   Lastly, I would like to say thank you to everyone I met at the Idaho Fish Health Center, Dworshak Hatchery, and all the Nez Perce Tribal Hatcheries that I visited.  I would especially like to say thank you to Dr. Marilyn “Guppy” Blair, Laura Sprague, Corie Samson, Rick Cordes, Liz Steiner, Chelsea Weeks, Rick Allain, and Mark Drobish. It’s funny because I guess there was some talk as to how the center was going to be able to come up with enough for me to do for four weeks, but as you have read from my ramblings I had plenty to do and I had a blast doing it!  Thank you everyone and until we meet again!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Unique, Energetic, and Dedicated

Many of the activities at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery are successful only because of a unique group of energetic and dedicated individuals who donate their time, effort, and energy to helping our program succeed.  Who are they? OUR VOLUNTEERS!
Frequently attired in rubber boots and various colors of rain gear, volunteers can be seen:

  Sorting adults that come up the fish ladder,

Preparing females for spawning, and

                                                            Rinsing fertilized eggs. 


 A few volunteers prefer educating visitors

and guiding tours!

Other volunteer activities have included sorting and digitizing our photo collection, organizing our outreach materials, leading classroom dissections,
                                               Inventory sampling,
Creating works of art,
Greeting our guests on Kid's Fishing Day,                                 


assisting  on Veteran's Fishing Day!

We greatly appreciate all of our volunteers and to each of them we say
We could not accomplish our mission without you. 

If you are interested in joining our team of volunteers please contact us at 208.476.4591.

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Remembering William "Bill"  Anderson,

fishing enthusiast, friend, and Dworshak Volunteer since 1987. 

Posted by Jill Olson