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December 1, 2022

USGS Western Fisheries Research Center (WFRC) Fish Biologist, Joe Warren, is the winner of this issues photo contest. The image shows opening day of collecting and PIT tagging juvenile steelhead on a tributary of the Wind River.

PIT tagging juvenile steelhead on a tributary of the Wind River
Field work conducted on the Wind River.  The image shows opening day of collecting and PIT tagging juvenile steelhead on a tributary of the Wind River. Ian Jezorek is conducting the PIT tagging and Brad Liedtke is entering the data.

Here, we get a glimpse into field work on the Wind River, WA, showing opening day of collecting and PIT tagging juvenile steelhead on Paradise Creek, a tributary of the Wind River.

The Wind River is a tributary of the Columbia River and home to a wild steelhead population throughout the watershed, and fall chinook, and coho salmon in the lower portion of the watershed. Current population numbers for these species fall well below historic levels and some are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A major reason for their decline throughout the Columbia Basin is the estimated 30-90% of historical fish habitat loss, prompting natural resource agencies to find ways to improve fish passage and habitat.

The USGS Wind River project, led by Ian Jezorek in the WFRC’s Columbia River Research Laboratory, has been conducting research and monitoring for over 20 years.  The project is funded by Bonneville Power Administration and includes partners Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and Underwood Conservation District (UCD). The focus of the project has been to restore, monitor, and research a wild steelhead population through protections and habitat restoration actions. Hatchery steelhead were eliminated from the watershed in the late 90s and WDFW considers the Wind River a wild steelhead sanctuary. Habitat restoration actions (implemented by USFS and UCD) include additions of large woody debris, reconnection of floodplain habitats, and barrier removals. Hemlock Dam, a partial barrier on Trout Creek, was removed in 2009, and research to date shows promise for increased juvenile and adult steelhead production. The

USGS and WDFW cooperate to monitor adult and juvenile abundance and research behavior and life-history metrics (such as life-stage survival and migratory behaviors) of this wild steelhead population.

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