North coast High School program teaches students fisheries biology

North Coast High School Program

Not every 16-year-old kid knows how to work with spawning salmon, incubate a freshwater fish egg, rear the juveniles and then release them into a river or bay.

Yet quite a large number of teenagers in Clatsop County have learned exactly that in the past several decades thanks to hatchery programs at both Astoria and Warrenton high schools.

In these programs, science isn’t found only in textbooks, but in real-life examples.

“A lot of the kids are really craving that. …They want to see and experience it,” said Lee Cain, a science teacher at Astoria High School. “Once they get up close and personal with living organisms, a lot of kids are really hooked.”

Cain teaches the aquatic biology program at Astoria High.

The program began on a much smaller scale in the early 1970s, when teacher Eldon Korpela began working with students to rear salmon eggs in buckets, Cain said.

Now the program has a classroom, a data lab, a research lab and a wet lab, as well as tanks and ponds.

Students can take semester-long fisheries biology and marine biology classes.

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Meet the Bio: Katherine Nordholm

Katherine NordholmWhen Katherine Nordholm was in high school, she toured a Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program fish hatchery in the Coos Bay area.

She found herself so interested in the program, that by summer she had joined it as a volunteer.

Now, more than a decade later and with two college degrees behind her, Nordholm is a STEP biologist who works out of the Springfield office.

“It really just kind of sprung out of the experience and really enjoying the fisheries work that I did there, and wanting to make it a career,” Nordholm said. “I always thought this would be the best job ever, and now I have it.”

Nordholm, who was raised in Coos Bay, has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in fisheries science, both from Oregon State University.

In addition to volunteering for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for many years, Nordholm also worked for the department for about five years between degrees, in an entry-level position, where she did stream and coho spawning surveys and worked on the salmonid life-cycle monitoring project.

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ODFW R&E Board position open

ODFW R&E ProgramEvery year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Restoration and Enhancement Program gives $2 million to $3 million to fishery projects that benefit sport and commercial fisheries. The projects aim for a balance of both restoration and enhancement, to continually improve our state’s fishing grounds.

The program’ board studies proposed projects, listens to public comment on them, and makes recommendations for funding to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

One of the people helping to make these important project recommendations could be you.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking applicants for the board’s public-at-large position. The position is one of seven, with the others divided evenly between the commercial and sports fishing interests.

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STEP Volunteers survey metro-area steelhead at Rogue Valley’s Bear Creek

Rogue Valley - bear creek

For years STEP volunteers have trapped wild steelhead in urban areas of the Rogue Valley’s Bear Creek tributaries. During that time, it became apparent that juvenile steelhead rely on the smallest seasonal streams as refuge during high water events. What hasn’t been known is how far they travel within the watershed.

In attempt to get answers to that question, Rogue area STEP biologist Ryan Battleson and area volunteers began fin clipping juveniles caught in traps. Now when young fish are captured again in another stream survey trap, the STEP team will have a better idea of where the steelhead hideout and how far they travel within the basin.

Trapping began in 2005 in 34 Rogue Basin streams, including 11 Bear Creek Tributaries. Results exceeded expectations from the onset. Young steelhead were caught in every trap that was placed, including five streams that were thought to be fishless. Continue Reading →

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Children learn about steelhead spawning cycle

Photo by Dolly Greene - steelhead spawning

Since 2007, Florence area third graders have learned about the spawning cycle of wild steelhead from STEP volunteers. The classroom is the Whitaker Fish trap, which sits a few hundred feet from the Siuslaw River that feeds into the Pacific Ocean.

Students study not only the steelhead life cycle, but also steelhead anatomy, stream ecology and how steelhead populations positively affect local flora and fauna.

The students watch as full-grown steelhead are separated one-at-a-time. The wild fish are released up-stream from the trap to spawn naturally. The hatchery-raised fish are marked, milked of their eggs and milt, then released downstream. This process ensures that only wild steelhead spawn above the trap in Whitaker Creek. Continue Reading →

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Meet the Bio: Ryan Battleson

Ryan Battleson

Ryan Battleson, STEP’s Upper Rogue District biologist, has experience working the entire Rogue watershed, with stints in ODWF’s Gold Beach office and as a crew leader for Lower Rogue steelhead before taking his current position. His district is comprised of the upper Rogue basin east to Crater Lake and from the Cascade Range to the highest reaches of the coast range to the west.

In addition to survey work (see the lead story in this issue), Battleson works with government agencies and fishing club presidents as a member of the area watershed council, coordinates a spring salmon eggs-to-fry program for about 20 area schools, manages small riparian restoration projects, and works hand-in-hand with small stream urban landowners to increase habitat.

“This district is somewhat unique because we don’t have any large STEP hatcheries, as we sit in a highly populated area centered in the Rogue watershed. That makes the needs of the district different than most,” Battleson noted.

Did You know:

STEP volunteers improved more than 650 miles of waterways for fish last year alone through fish passage, riparian and fish carcass placement projects, and the Keep Oregon Rivers Clean (KORC) program. Get involved!

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Meet the Bio: Evan Leonetti

Evan LeonettiEvan Leonetti started his career in Douglas County in 2005 after getting his degree in fisheries and wildlife at OSU. Today his career has come full circle as STEP’s newest biologist, covering the Umpqua region, which runs from Diamond Lake in the Cascades to Reedsport and Gardner on the coast.

“It’s a large, diverse area. One day I might be on the coast coordinating winter steelhead broodstock with local guides. The next I could be high the Cascades on a horse stocking rainbow trout in a remote Douglas County lake. Later on in that week, I might be working with local guides to conduct floating adult spawning surveys,” said Leonetti.

And when he’s not in the field, you’ll likely find Leonetti in a classroom teaching young children about trout through the egg-to-fry program. He provides eggs for 33 classrooms in his district.

Leonetti’s goal is “to expand beyond production projects, by focusing on more restoration in the future.”

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Treating Northeast Oregon Ponds with Rotenone

RotenoneWhen people release illegal fish ­­– goldfish, crappie, bass and bullheads – into lakes or streams, they reduce the survival rates and growth of stocked trout. This was the case with several bodies of water in northeastern Oregon including Balm Creek Reservoir, Kinney Lake, and ponds called Lugar, Boundary, Keyhole, Yellowjacket, Granite Meadows, and Goldfish. Continue Reading →

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Cleaning stations: Need for local sponsors

ODFW cleaning-stationsODFW has funding for high quality fish cleaning facilities, but needs local sponsors to move them forward.

In Florence, an additional station was added to allow more people to quickly clean their catch. Lights were also added, so recreational fishermen could launch and land their boats at night. This project was administered through the Florence STEP program with support from the Port of Siuslaw.

While in Coquille, the city received a grant to modernize a cleaning station at Sturdivant Park with lights, a fan, new roof, sprayers, and drains. Plans are to also make it ADA compliant.

Cleaning stations support angler access and reduce barriers to those who want to fish.

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Whetstone Pond: Improved access for all

Whetstone PondLocated in the Denman Wildlife Area, Whetstone Pond provides access to fishing in a rural setting close to Medford. It is the only ADA accessible site in the Rogue Valley where anglers can fish for warm water species.

This project increased accessibility for everyone to fish and view wildlife. It also maintained the existing trail system. Previous fishing access was often crowded, so this project opened up more bank access for anglers.

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