PGE fish scientists are tracking the whereabouts of the first adult salmon released into Lake Billy Chinook. The fish are implanted with tags that send out an identifying radio signal. A map shows the locations of the fish released this summer in the upper Deschutes, Crooked and Metolius rivers.
On July 11, the first sockeye returning to the Pelton Fish Trap was radio tagged, and passed upstream into Lake Billy Chinook. This was the first wild sockeye returning from the Pacific passed into the reservoir in about 45 years. This week, three more returned and were passed, and one of them was radio tagged. All four of these fish bore the right maxillary mark placed on them by the PGE fish passage crew as they emigrated from Lake Billy Chinook through the new fish facility in spring 2010.
I have received several inquiries this week about why the lower Deschutes River near where it enters the Columbia River is so warm this early in the summer. Many anglers know that temperatures on the Deschutes below the Pelton Round Butte Project are now being managed to reflect what they would be if the dams were not here. That is still the case.
I have been waiting to post an update on our 2012 downstream juvenile migration counts, hoping that sockeye (yearling kokanee) numbers would increase substantially. It’s now looking as though those numbers will remain low.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation recently announced a one-year strategy for upstream passage of up to 50 percent of the returning adult salmon and steelhead that were naturally-reared in historic habitats above Round Butte Dam and passed downstream through the new fish facility.
We had some exciting and historic milestones this year when fry planted upstream of Pelton Round Butte returned as adults. Read more on that topic below. But the big story of 2011 is yearling sockeye salmon.
In our Q&A on water temperature posted July 29, I noted that “We fine-tuned the system to make it more responsive, and this year expect to be able to make changes as needed — remembering that Natural Thermal Potential remains the target.”
What’s Natural Thermal Potential? It refers to what the water temperature below the dams would have been without the reservoirs and dams in place.
What’s PGE’s role in managing water temperatures in the lower Deschutes?
There he was, a Chinook salmon with a history that involved me, a 30-year dream and 16 years of hard work by a host of people. The fish looked much like the others swimming in the shaded concrete pond below Round Butte Dam, but this one was special. Like the others caught in the Pelton Fish Trap this May, it was beautiful, about 12 pounds, bright and shiny, strong and thick from two years gorging itself in the rich Pacific. The difference was that this one was missing part of the small bone along the right side of its mouth.
With the salmon fly hatch on the Lower Deschutes River in full swing and many anglers pursuing trout that rise to the big bugs, I am getting frequent calls about the high flows. Anglers are somewhat used to flows higher than normal during wet years, but this year is exceptional.