TU Chapter Angler Science Assists ODFW

In Oregon by Nick Chambers

As we all know, shortfalls in funding for our fish and wildlife management agencies are an ongoing concern. Severe budget constraints play out in many ways that impact fisheries management and sometimes angling opportunity. TU and Wild Steelheaders United are working both on-the-ground and in the halls of state legislatures to address these funding challenges.

One of the first important agency functions to feel the pain is often monitoring of focal species such as wild steelhead. Monitoring is a labor-intensive operation that involves counting redds, or adult populations through snorkel surveys. The Clackamas River Chapter of Trout Unlimited provides a good example of how angling organizations can support and supplement such critical data collection.

Clackamas River TU, based in the southeast Portland metro area, is now on its second year of conducting steelhead spawning surveys on Eagle Creek, a Clackamas River tributary near Estacada. A better understanding of steelhead spawning activity in this stream will help the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manage the Clackamas steelhead runs. For the 2017 season, ODFW agreed to allow the chapter a trial run in surveying Eagle Creek for steelhead spawning. The chapter’s goal was to document as many spawning sites for steelhead, cutthroat and lamprey as they could from February through April.

ODFW biologist conducted training and provided materials for chapter volunteers to use during surveys, and for submission of weekly reports. About midway through the season, an ODFW fish biologist checked the reach being surveyed and affirmed CRTU was handling the assignment capably. 2017 was a particularly high water year, making spawning surveys challenging at times, but by the end of the season, CRTU documented 11 active spawning sites in a 1-mile reach of stream and observed adults actively spawning on a number of occasions. Clackamas River TU has already begun to conduct surveys on Eagle Creek again in 2018.

TU and Wild Steelheaders United are currently supporting steelhead monitoring efforts on other Oregon rivers such as the North Santiam, Molalla, and Smith. Counting redds and snorkel-surveying is a great way to give back to your local fisheries, and can also be, according to CRTU volunteers, “an absolute blast for young and old alike.” To get involved in steelhead monitoring efforts in Oregon, contact TU’s Oregon Field Coordinator Kyle Smith at ksmith@tu.org, or David Tenney at dntenney@hotmail.com