Fish Reintroduction Update 2022

May 09, 2022
Learn more about the efforts the Land Trust and our partners have been taking to create a thriving population of spring Chinook and steelhead salmon.

 

The Land Trust continues to participate in the long-term partnership for the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead in the upper Deschutes River region. This year we were able to once again help with spring Chinook and steelhead releases into Whychus Creek, Ochoco Creek, and beyond!

Over the years, our reintroduction partners have adjusted and experimented with a variety of tactics to help return healthy and sustainable populations of these important fish. This year is no different.

First though, what's the same? Two years ago, our partners moved to exclusively releasing fish that are one year old, called smolts. This year, we worked with smolts again. At Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, a large acclimation tank hosted the fish for several weeks before their journey downriver. Meanwhile, at Ochoco Preserve, there were two large, temporary screened boxes (called live cars) where smolts acclimated ahead of their journey.

Acclimation is when smolts are placed in a holding facility that contains water from the stream or river the fish would naturally return to for spawning. Smolts are particularly sensitive to the smell of the water from their home creek and use this time in their lives to store the smell in their brain. This process is called imprinting. Then, they use this clue to help find their way back to the same area to spawn as an adult.

The acclimation tank at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve hosted 20,000 spring Chinook smolts and 50,000 summer steelhead this past March, April, and May. The release of these fish included a new tactic in reintroduction efforts. A percentage of the fish were transferred from the acclimation tank to a stress relief pond at Round Butte Dam on Lake Billy Chinook. There, the fish de-stressed from their trip before being released downstream of the dam in the evening. The hope is that by releasing them downstream, the fish will already have an obstacle removed from their journey to the Pacific Ocean. The remainder of the fish acclimated at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve were released directly into Whychus Creek. Meanwhile, at Ochoco Preserve, there were 18,000 spring Chinook salmon and 2,000 summer steelhead acclimated and released directly into Ochoco Creek.

In order to track the smolts once they've been released, a PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag is inserted into some of the fish. The PIT tag is somewhat similar to a microchip for your pet. PIT tag monitoring stations, located at certain points along fish migration routes, record the unique tag number as the fish passes by. In this way, we’re able to monitor the fish’s progress when they head out to the ocean, then track them again upon their return to spawn. We look forward to tracking their progress and celebrating the fish that return to the waters of Whychus Creek and Ochoco Creek!