Monday, July 23, 2012

Changes in Longitudes…

Iron River NFH, Iron River, Wisconsin Credit: USFWS
Hello, I am Shawn Sanders a visiting Fish Biologist from Iron River National Fish Hatchery, in Iron River, WI.  I was invited to Idaho for a week of training through an agency program called a “work detail”  This allows for sharing of knowledge and information between our agency employees.  What I have found is that no matter what type of detail, there is quite a lot to learn, in a small time frame.

Male and Female Brook Trout. Credit:USFWS
In Wisconsin, I work at a cold water hatchery where we culture Lake Trout and Brook Trout for Great Lakes Restoration.  The majority of our fish go to Lake Michigan with a few that are hauled to Lake Huron.  We truck all of our fish in large straight trucks with each employee required to maintain a CDL license.  Our total fish production is around 1.6 million Lake Trout and 30,000 Brook Trout. Our hatchery is also a brood facility providing millions of eggs to other hatcheries around the country.
Lake Trout. Credit: USFWS

I arrived at Dworshak after a 1450-mile weekend car ride.  The drive across the American interior gave me quite a perspective and reminded me how majestic the vista’s are within this great country.  I did have the chance to drive along the Clearwater River, which is of course the main thoroughfare for all the fish which Dworshak cultures.

I was met by Rob Bohn, Fish Culturist, and given the big tour of the facility.  Towering hillsides surround the facility with luscious coniferous trees; this is quite distinct when compared to the rolling fields and woods of North Wisconsin.  I will say that the sweltering heat of the last week was not my idea of perfect, but the purpose was learning not recreating.  The staff greeted me with open arms on Monday, the start of my work week.  I spent time mending bird fencing and watching a presentation about the new aquaculture system.  Tuesday was more bird fencing along with cleaning ponds with the staff and testing fish pumps.  Wednesday and Thursday we split Steelhead into empty ponds with mechanical fish pumps and counters.   Fish are split on hatcheries so they do not become too crowded.  Crowded fish populations could lead to disease outbreaks, reduced growth efficiency, or in the worst scenario, a catastrophic fish loss.  The operation of the fish counter and pumps was a new experience for me, something novel that I can share with my coworkers at Iron River NFH.
Shawn crowding steelhead for splitting. Credit: Angela Feldmann/USFWS

Shawn monitoring flows at a transfer tower. Credit: Angela Feldmann/USFWS
I did get to spend my “off” time chasing Clearwater Spring Chinook Salmon.  I ended up catching a wild Springer and releasing it and harvesting a hatchery-marked fish.  We smoked the springer with brown sugar and it turned out to be delicious!  I think I could get accustomed to eating a lot more smoked salmon.  I also had the chance to visit Pullman, WA and also really enjoyed that area.

Shawn with a nice Spring Chinook! Credit: Nate Wiese
Finally, I did spend some time with the Assistant Manager, Nate Wiese, learning about the specific parts of the water system (within the hatchery), rearing units, and tank room and how each functioned.  This information provided system knowledge that needs to be shared between facilities for an increased agency knowledge base.

I thank everyone who made this experience possible it gave me another vision of our agency and a renewed desire to move our program forward.  Thanks again!

by Shawn Sanders

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