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Salmon in the Hills – Fall 2012 Update

November 7, 2012

Below is an update on the Salmon in the Hills project from Coowe Walker, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve Watershed Researcher

Happy November to you! We had a busy field season, beginning last April and continuing through mid October for our ‘Salmon in Hills’ research. Our primary goal for this phase of the project was to PIT tag as many juvenile Dolly Varden and coho as possible at 5 different sites.  We established antennaes for detecting PIT tags at each of these sites, and these antennaes will remain in place through the winter. These sites represent a range of gradients and associated habitats, and we are hoping to see movement between habitat types.   The fish were noticeably later in emerging than in previous years of sampling these headwaters. This meant that fewer fish grew to ‘taggable’ size than we anticipated. However we were able to tag almost 1000 juvenile salmonids (998), and measure and release almost 1800 smaller salmonids that were too small to tag.

Flood 2012 image

High gradient stream

In September, we experienced heavy rainfall, and our study streams became lakes. We saw juvenile fish swimming across the road at one site! None-the-less, the antennaes remained functioning for the most part, and they are now “iced in” and ready to weather the winter. It will be very interesting to learn what these juvenile fish do in the winter and spring, as they prepare to outmigrate, or spend another summer rearing. 

 I am attaching a few images from the season. Look for the solar panels on the ‘Flood 2012’ image- they are next to what was the ‘normal’ channel before the flooding.  The high gradient stream in the image was previously undocumented as habitat for salmon. We did find juvenile coho in the stream, and have nominated it to the anadromous stream catalog. The image of the low gradient stream is a landscape that looks like a grassy meadow, and it is not all obvious that there is a stream chock full of juvenile Dollies and coho flowing through it-but there is!

Low gradient stream

These efforts are funded through a grant from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, with additional support from KBRR, Baylor University, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.   Special thanks to the Castellani family, the Trimble family, Cook Inlet Regional Incorporation, and the University of Alaska, for graciously giving us permission to use their property for this research.

Coowe Walker

Kachemak Bay Research Reserve

95 Sterling Highway, Suite 2

Homer, AK 99603

907.226.4651

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