A day off, then on to Marsh creek

My supervisor, Steve, wanted to go to Stanley on Saturday to upload some tagging files and visit some other data collection sites in the area.  I wanted to go, so we took off for town.  I normally don’t go to Stanley on weekends, but this was a good opportunity to see something new.

First stop, the video counting weir near Fir creek campground on Bear Valley creek, operated by the Shoshone/Bannock (ShoBans) tribe. 

This is a side view.  The fish are channeled into the center of the creek and through the counting tunnel.  I liked the touch of orange Home Depot buckets filled with water for weights.  The cameras operate on 12 volt and are their batteries are charged daily from the shore. 


The size of this weir is impressive.  It took a lot of work to get everything in place.  They had counted 363 adult chinook and 27 jack chinook and there were about 20 more for the Friday count.  They were doing the Friday count when we showed up.

Next stop was just north of Stanley, the Valley Creek #2 instream monitor near the Valley creek staff gage.

The Pittag detection antennas shown here were installed last Friday, Gabriel, our electronics specialist is doing some final anchoring in this picture.  The antenna stretch completely across the stream so we can get the maximum amount of data collection from the fish we will tag in Valley creek starting next Monday.  The staff gage (for stream flow information) is the little circular building downstream about 75 yards.

This is a side view that allows you to see the array more clearly.  We will be doing survival estimates on the tagged fish for the next 9 months.  The individually move downstream even in the dead of winter.  This operates 24/7 with solar power or propane power.  All information is uploaded daily via satellite.  This was the first area we put a non 120v unit into a stream.  After 5 years we are finally getting all of the bugs out of the system.  The technology is now such that we can cover the whole stream.

This type of creation is one of our, NOAA Fisheries’ (Dam Passage and Fish Ecology), main functions.  We develop ideas and technologies, then turn the operation and maintenance over to other entities.  Soon we will be out of the instream monitor business except for collaboration with other fisheries agencies.  Gabriel is very good at this and he will be continuing to improve the systems both here and at other sites throughout the Columbia River basin.

Looking back at Stanley, Idaho and the Sawtooth range from the little footbridge above the array.  We have a second set of monitors about 1/4 mile above this site on Valley creek. 

Sigh, the next day it was back to work, this time on Marsh creek.

It was very cold on the first morning.  Ice would form on your shoes and waders as you walked around.  I estimated the temperature at somewhere around 28 degrees.  I had my heaviest coat on the start, but by quitting time around 12:30p, the temp was near 80.

Around 10AM the collection crew came by…

We have two crews going, one on each side of the stream.  The person on the left is running the shocker.  The center guy nets the fish, and the guy on the far right packs the bucket carrying the captured fish.  They might hike two miles a day up a stream, over slippery rocks and fallen logs. 

Here is the shocking “wand” with the collection net nearby.  The backpack puts out an AC signal that charges the water in an area of about 5 feet in diameter.  Obviously the fish get tingled and try to flee.  If they are too close, there is no escape.  They follow the circular electric field to the center of the wand and get caught on the net stretched across the opening.  Most of the fish are caught this way although the netter can pick up strays.  The shocker can be placed on different settings to capture different sizes or species of fish.  We are targeting chinook and steelhead, we use an electrical setting experience has shown to be the most effective for them.  Larger fish flee immediately and are free to go.  We also see other fish, all are counted for reference. 

Other critters occasionally show up too.  Beavers, otters, snakes, frogs, we leave them alone once we see them.  I got surprised by a duck one day that burst out from under a cut-bank and flew right past my nose in panic.  I doubt if it even saw me.  Another time I climbed over and slid off a big log jamb, back into Lake creek, and came face-to-face with a huge bull moose that had just stepped out of thick brush nearby!  I was cornered with no escape, a 40 lbs shocker on my back, and scared to death.  I was going to try to shock him on the nose if he got upset and charged, but he just stared for a moment and ambled off.  We were within 8 feet of each other.

I’m sure glad I didn’t have to try that.

This is the collection bucket.  We’ve found the fish recover much quicker if they are on oxygen, so the bucket man carries a backpack with a small oxygen bottle attached.

All of us have been shocked several times, we know what the fish feel like.  Leaky waders, excitement while chasing a fish, equipment repair/malfunction, accident, you name it.  No one has ever been injured from the electricity, but it sure can smart.

After we collect the fish, they have to be hauled back to the station.  For years we used five gallon buckets, but occasionally you slip and fall.  We had our shop build up some custom fish packs.

This is a six gallon carboy on a pack frame.  The fish get oxygen as sometimes the distances can be longer than is safe for the fish without the extra air.  Most of the time the fish are from bucket along the stream to tagging station in less than 15 minutes.

While waiting for fish today (7/26) I was sitting on a bucket enjoying the scenery.  Looking at my feet, I spotted this…

An incredibly delicate seed “parachute ball” from some local wild flower.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find any of the flowers responsible for this amazing site, they were all bloomed out and gone.  I walked around and shot some other flowers while I waited for fish.

No, I don’t know what these are called.   I might have to pick up a wild flower book tomorrow.

We are off to Cape Horn creek tomorrow.  Praxy is coming with me to help out at the station.  Steve is going to Valley creek at mid morning tomorrow to snorkel some of the collection areas.  He is going to check if there is enough fish to do some beach seining as well as shocking side-by-side.  We want to compare the two sampling techniques for potential differences in survival rates.  If there aren’t enough fish, we will tell the additional people remain in Pasco.  If the station is busy, I can use some help. 

That’s all!


About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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