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Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife


For immediate release
Monday, September 16, 2003
 
Contact: Kathy Shinn (503) 657-2000 x285 or
Hal Weeks (541) 867-0300 x279
 

 
 
Coastal Anglers May Find Fall Chinook with Tags, Transmitters

 



 
NEWPORT – Beginning in September, anglers fishing in several coastal rivers may see marked chinook salmon with a small hole in their gill covers and a few with radio transmitters. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is continuing a multi-year study on fall chinook salmon in several Oregon coastal watersheds to meet the state’s obligation under the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Anglers may harvest a fish having an external mark such as a finclip or hole punched in the gill covering, but must release a fish containing a radio tag. Fish with an antenna protruding from its mouth or body identifies it as a radio-tagged fish.

“One of several field components of the fall chinook study is to live-capture and mark incoming Chinook in the lower Nehalem, Siuslaw, Umpqua and Coquille rivers at night, when fish are on the move,” said Hal Weeks, field project leader overseeing the study. “We don’t want people to be alarmed when they see us working with lights on these rivers at night.” Marking allows researchers to more accurately determine the numbers of spawning adults.

“We take particular care to handle each fish carefully," said Weeks. "We use live wells and artificial slime to minimize the stress of handling. In the Nehalem River, we use a recovery box that provides the fish equivalent of CPR when waters are warm. Most importantly, we handle the fish quickly and gently, and return them to the river as rapidly as possible, often in less than a minute,” Weeks explained.

Species management units that are classified “at risk” will be given priority status for development of a conservation plan under the Native Fish Conservation Policy. “At risk” populations do not meet at least three of the adopted interim criteria:

Upriver, information on marked and unmarked Chinook is recorded by crews finding carcasses in standard and randomly selected survey reaches after the fish have spawned in the rivers from September into December. “In the Umpqua River, we’re also using radio telemetry to track fish movement and get an idea of what fraction of the Chinook use which portions of the river system," Weeks said. In the Nehalem and Umpqua rivers, crews also conduct creel surveys to better estimate recreational harvest levels.

“Our longer term goal is to identify a spawning survey index that will reliably track spawner numbers in each river and to calibrate our angler harvest-card information,” Weeks said. "Spawning ground surveys are much less expensive than mark-recapture studies, and understanding the reliability of angler harvest cards is less expensive than creel surveys. However, stock sizes vary from year to year due to climate and regional effects such as habitat alteration and floods. In addition, weather conditions influence survey effectiveness, so we are trying to get a handle on many variables all at once,” he added.

Most north-migrating Oregon fall Chinook of the north and middle coast are harvested by commercial and sport fisheries off British Columbia and Alaska that are managed by the Pacific Salmon Commission. This project will help ODFW to meet its goals under the PST to accurately report spawning abundance and recreational harvest information in an economical and efficient way.

The project also helps ODFW contribute to the salmon restoration goals of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. Surveyors check each fish for predator marks, and monitoring helps biologists understand if the areas of a river used by Chinook are changing. "We’re working with coastal watershed councils and local citizen groups who are actively involved with the Oregon plan, and we encourage the public to ask questions about the study," said Weeks.

Federal funding made available following Treaty amendments in 1999 makes it possible for ODFW to collect necessary information. So far, the study has documented increasing numbers of fall Chinook in the four basins under study. Progress reports from each of the several basins are available at the ODFW Marine Resources Program Web site athttp://www.hmsc.oregonstate.edu/odfw/. For more information about a particular marked fish or the research project, contact Hal Weeks at ODFW’s Marine Resources Program office in Newport at 541.867.0300 ext 279, or at Hal.Weeks@state.or.us.


 

 
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