Every year, volunteers at the Letz Creek Fish Rearing Facility near Lorane, the Munsel Creek Coho Salmon Program in Florence, and Depoe Bay Salmon Enhancement Commission Coho supplementation program give their time to spawn fish, incubate eggs and set these salmon and steelhead free.
Their work may provide a better catch in local rivers and other waterways.
“These efforts also ripple through these communities in other ways, including through programs in local schools and watershed clean-up efforts,” said Christine Clapp, Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program biologist for the Mid-Coast District of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It’s good for communities to feel a connection to their local watershed,” Clapp said. “Having these kinds of programs is a good way to bring people together to think about watershed health and the fisheries that they have in their local rivers.”
These three fish propagation programs, run by volunteers under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, are seeking a five-year renewal.
The Letz Creek project is operated by Northwest Steelheaders, Emerald Empire Chapter. The Florence STEP group runs the Munsel Creek program. The Depoe Bay Salmon Enhancement Commission is the group in charge of the Coho program in Depoe Bay.
Raising winter steelhead
For the Letz Creek program, volunteers catch adult brood stock in a trap on-site and spawn adult steelhead in the winter for this winter steelhead program.
“They raise the eggs in a hatch house,” Clapp said, “and then transfer the fry to circular tanks. After their adipose fins are clipped, they transfer the fish to a rearing pond at the site where they’re held over the winter and released in the spring.”
They raise up to 40,000 winter steelhead eggs, with the goal of releasing 15,000 smolts in Letz Creek.
“This contributes to the overall Siuslaw winter steelhead hatchery program,” Clapp said.
Another 85,000 fish raised through another hatchery program are released farther downstream.
“The winter steelhead fishery on Whittaker Creek is very popular,” Clapp said.
The group also organizes a clean-up on Whittaker Creek, a fishing trip for veterans on the McKenzie River and a school outreach program in the Eugene area.
Like Letz Creek, volunteers at Munsel Creek’s program also catch fish in an adult trap, though in this case it is Coho salmon.
“They typically spawn about four pair of fish,” Clapp said, “to produce about 12,000 to 15,000 eggs.”
They incubate the eggs, and then hold them as fry in circular tanks, releasing up to 10,000 fingerlings annually in Munsel Lake.
“This program works actively with Florence schools,” Clapp said. They organize watershed-based field trips, bring students out to help with fin clipping, and provide fish and watershed education to grades kindergarten through high school.
Adding to ocean fishery
The Depoe Bay program starts with 20,000 Coho eggs received from a hatchery, raising them to smolts.
They transfer the fry to a net pen in the North Depoe Bay Reservoir, where they hold them until the following spring before volunteers remove the screens from the reservoir, so the fish can head to the ocean.
“The purpose of the program is education and community involvement,” Clapp said, “and the Coho raised also contribute to the ocean fishery.”
“There are a lot of anglers that fish out of Depoe Bay,” Clapp said.
The group also works with a Depoe Bay afterschool program, where students learn about salmon biology, travel to the project site to feed the fish, and learn about Coho care and development.
“Fish propagation is one of four areas of focus for the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program,” Clapp said. It attracts a lot of volunteers and remains an effective way to get people involved in fisheries management and enhancement.
“Each of these programs provide a great opportunity to connect the community to the watershed,” Clapp said.