Sampling Updates

Outplanting in Gnat Creek

Adult outplanting in Gnat Creek

Measuring fecundity

Calculating fecundity

RSI egg transfer

Transferring fertilized eggs to the Remote Site Incubator

August 2023

In the fall of 2022, the Program to Restore Oregon’s Chum Salmon (PROCS) was fully staffed with both seasonal employees returning at the beginning of October. Along with a consistent group of helpful volunteers, the team was ready and in a favorable position to begin the season. A total of 1,599 Chum Salmon returned to Big Creek hatchery throughout the fall, with the peak return occurring the week of November 21st. This was the third consecutive year with a strong return, and it enabled the project to meet and exceed broodstock fry release goals, reintroduce adults to the Big Creek and Clatskanie River Recovery Populations, release unfed fry in two locations, and operate an experimental Remote Site Incubator in the Clatskanie River watershed. 

Maintaining the conservation broodstock is the top priority of the project, and a total of 350 Chum (176F 174 M) were spawned for this purpose. Most of these fish were 4-year-olds, and 40% were of hatchery-origin, which was almost identical to the previous year. A total of 508,954 eggs were collected, representing an average fecundity of 2,955 eggs/female. This amounted to 422,955 fry being released into Big Creek on March 29th and April 10th, 2023, which represents the largest Chum fry release since the inception of the program.

It has been seven years since PROCS has experimented with a Remote Site Incubator (RSI). A site was selected along Page Creek, which is a low gradient tributary to the Clatskanie River, and 40 Chum (20F 20M) were spawned and 67,220 eggs were collected to be moved to the RSI. Most of those fish were also 4-year-olds and 32.5% were of hatchery-origin. The fertilized eggs (50,000) were reared at Big Creek Hatchery until they reached the eyed-egg stage and given a unique otolith mark before being transported to Page Creek on December 30th, 2022. An estimated 46,093 fry out-migrated from the RSI into Page Creek, representing a 92.2% survival rate. PROCS is planning on operating an RSI at this location again in the upcoming season.

With conservation broodstock goals met, 68 Chum (34F 34M) were spawned and 83,436 eggs were collected and used for an unfed fry release in both the Big Creek and Clatskanie Recovery Populations, marking the first time PROCS has experimented with this method of reintroduction. These fish were also mostly 4-year-olds, and 35.3% of them were of hatchery origin. On March 14th, 2023, over 28,000 fry were released into Gnat Creek (Big Creek Recovery Population) and 50,000 fry were released into Page Creek, just above the location of the RSI. The unfed fry released in Page Creek have a unique otolith mark which is different from the fry which left the RSI. This will provide useful information to compare the effectiveness of the two reintroduction strategies when those fish return to spawn beginning in 2025.

Throughout the month of November 2022, PROCS outplanted over 1,100 adult Chum returning to the hatchery to nearby rivers and streams, giving them the opportunity to volitionally spawn in both recovery populations. In the Big Creek area, 479 Chum (307F 172M) were put into Bear and Little Bear Creeks and 45 Chum (28F 17M) were taken to Gnat Creek. In the Clatskanie Recovery Population, 403 Chum (217F 186M) were outplanted in the Clatskanie River, 146 (79F 67M) were put in Conyers Creek, and 60 (26F 34M) were taken to Stewart Creek.

Chum Salmon were observed on the spawning grounds in 15 reaches surveyed by the Oregon Adult Salmonid Inventory and Sampling (OASIS) and PROCS projects in the fall of 2022. In the Youngs Bay Recovery Population naturally returning adults were observed spawning in the Lewis & Clark and South Fork Klaskanine Rivers. In the Big Creek area, both natural returning and outplanted Chum were recorded in Bear and Little Bear Creeks, and natural returners were seen in Plympton and Big Creeks. OASIS crews observed Chum spawning in the Clatskanie River and in Conyers Creek, and it is presumed that these adults were all outplanted from the hatchery to the Clatskanie Recovery Population. 

In the Spring of 2023 PROCS operated rotary screw traps in the same three locations as last year (Bear Creek, Conyers Creek, Clatskanie River) to monitor juvenile Chum salmon production. In the Clatskanie River over 21,000 Chum fry were estimated to have outmigrated, and in Conyers Creek the estimate is over 2,400 fry. In Bear Creek, where PROCS has been running the trap since 2017, a record 130,555 Chum fry were estimated to have left their freshwater rearing habitat on the way to the Pacific Ocean.


Unfed fry release in Gnat Creek

Unfed fry release in Gnat Creek


October 2022

In the fall of 2021, the Program to Restore Oregon’s Chum Salmon (PROCS) replaced outgoing staff with three new team members. At the same time, over 2,300 Chum were returning to Oregon’s Big Creek Hatchery - the highest return observed in at least 40 years, more than doubling the mark set in 2020. The large return enabled PROCS to meet fry release goals and reintroduce adults to the Big Creek and Clatskanie River Recovery Populations.

A total of 337 Chum (168 F 169 M) were spawned for the conservation broodstock. Most of these adults were 3 or 4 years old and about 40% were hatchery-origin fish. PROCS collected 424,468 eggs over 3 spawning days in November 2021. A total of 403,152 fed-fry were released from Big Creek on March 22 and April 18, 2022. Big Creek Hatchery adult collections in 2021 yielded the largest Chum fry release since the inception of the program.

After broodstock collection goals were met, excess adults returning to the hatchery were tagged and transported to spawn volitionally in nearby streams. In the Big Creek Recovery Population, 636 Chum (353 F 283 M) were taken to Bear and Little Bear Creeks and 103 fish (54 F 49 M) were put in Gnat Creek. In the Clatskanie River Recovery Population, 1,005 Chum (706 F 299 M) were transported to two locations in the Clatskanie River. Another 168 fish (120 F 48 M) were taken to Conyers Creek and 50 fish (28 F 22 M) were put in Stewart Creek.

Chum Salmon were observed in 16 spawning reaches via surveys conducted by Oregon Adult Salmonid Inventory and Sampling (OASIS) and PROCS projects in the fall 2021. Adults were observed in the Lewis & Clark and SF Klaskanine Rivers in the Youngs Bay Recovery Population, and in Bear, Little Bear, Big, Little, and Plympton Creeks in the Big Creek Recovery Population. Additionally, tagged adults were observed by OASIS survey crews in the Clatskanie River and in Conyers, Carcus, and Stewart Creeks in the Clatskanie River Recovery Population.

To monitor the success of reintroduction efforts in 2021, PROCS operated three rotary screw traps in the spring of 2022 where the highest number of adults were released: Bear Creek, Conyers Creek, and the Clatskanie River. The goal was to estimate the number of juvenile Chum Salmon leaving these freshwater habitats on their journey to the ocean. The effort produced the following estimates: 31,555 Chum fry migrated out of Bear Creek, over 3,800 left Conyers Creek, and 48,529 Chum fry were estimated to have migrated out of the Clatskanie River. The number of fry produced in Bear Creek was lower in 2022 than in 2021, which was likely due to unusually high flow events scouring redds. In contrast, both the Clatskanie River and Conyers Creek traps had record breaking fry estimates for the program due to reintroduction efforts. PROCS is currently gearing up for what we hope is another large Chum return to Big Creek in the fall of 2022.


May 21st, 2021

The low water has continued to create challenges in keeping the Bear Creek trap spinning, but we believe we finally have a quiet solution to give us just enough energy to keep the trap spinning.  We installed tin cans to the inside of the cone and are using a pond pump to fill the cans with enough water during rotation to keep the cone spinning.  We are now back to our overnight check schedule and will be continuing to fine-tune the system to improve efficiency.  Although we missed some trapping time acquiring supplies, getting the system working, and then safely switching everyone's schedules to once again employ overnight checks, this should be a system that we can now rely on to deal with the low water issues we experience in most years at this time in Bear Creek.

Catch at Clatskanie continues to drop off, with 50-150 Coho smolts, 15-30 Steelhead smolts, and up to 25 or so Cutthroat in the larger size classes being captured this week.  Additional daily catch has included some Coho and Chinook fry, a handful of Pacific Lamprey adults, and a few Lamprey larva.  With trap efficiencies a bit lower than we would like, we will be adjusting some of the paneling around the trap to seal off some of the holes that fish are using to avoid capture.   


May 14th, 2021

As quick as the Peamouth showed up at Bear Creek, the water in the creek disappeared.  As a result, we are now struggling to keep the trap spinning and will be looking at bringing back the old tin can and water pump trick used by Steve Johnson from back in the day.  Peamouth catch for the few days we were able to fish the trap during the migration have been all over the place, with a few single digit catches and other nights in the 500-600 fish range.  Catch at Clatskanie has dropped off from a week ago, but so has overall trap efficiency despite tight paneling to the trap.  Coho smolt catch has generally been in the 100-150 fish range and Steelhead smolts around 40-50 fish/night. We have also seen a bunch of Cutthroat Trout in the catch in recent days, with the majority of fish in the 160-249 mm size range.

This week, Derek attended the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society meeting virtually for a couple days.  A diversity of films were shown during the meeting with amazing imagery and incredible stories.  The films included underwater salmon footage and the Bear Creek Peamouth film submitted by Derek.  The best film award went to WaterLust which produced an incredible story about Alaskan Sockeye Salmon and research done to monitor this keystone species. 


May 7th, 2021

It appears that our second season has begun at Bear Creek, as today we captured 25 Peamouth in the screw trap.  From past experience, that modest number of Peamouth will quickly turn into a big "slug" of fish that will invade Bear Creek and our screw trap during the spring spawning run.  This weekend we will be switching to overnight checks at Bear Creek to deal with the massive numbers of fish that are ready to start migrating into the creek.  Coho smolt (40-50 smolts/day) and Steelhead smolt (20-40 smolts/day) catch has increased this week, as we are now in the peak window for smolt outmigration.  Chum fry catch at Bear Creek is all but over, but we did have a five fish day this week.  It was interesting to see a significant diversity in sizes on that "big" fish day, as we usually only see a consistent size of Chum fry during the outmigration (see pic below).  At Clatskanie, smolt catch has also ramped up, with 300 to 400 Coho smolts and 40-50 Steelhead smolts now being caught daily.  Few fry are being observed daily, but we did capture a few more non-native species this week.  See pics below of our second Goby capture of this year and our second consecutive year of capturing a juvenile Smallmouth Bass at the Clatskanie trap (not good!). 

Derek continues to work on updating and editing project reports.  This includes updating our comprehensive, 2012-2019 juvenile report with an official ODFW number and new Biological Science Bulletin cover page.  Our 2020 juvenile report is currently being edited and should be finished and uploaded to the ODFW Clearinghouse and project website late next week.  To check out the 2012-2019 juvenile report, click here


Pictures of the Week

Recent Pictures, various fish species, 5-7-2021



April 30th, 2021

The bit of rain we received over the last week has helped at the screw traps, providing a little more water to keep us fishing.  We are down to a few Chum fry/day at Bear Creek, and we will soon be transitioning over to all night checks to fish through the upcoming Peamouth migration.  The plan is to start night checks late next week, as past history tells us that is when those little buggers show up in force in Bear Creek around the trap site.  At Clatskanie, Coho smolt catch finally started to ramp up, with daily captures rising to over 100/day this week.  Additional interesting catches in the last week at Clatskanie include a Pumpkinseed and Goby.

In other news, Derek dropped off all otolith (i.e., ear bone) samples from adult Chum Salmon collections at Big Creek Hatchery and on spawning surveys to the Fish Life History and Analysis project at the Corvallis Research Laboratory on Tuesday.  Analysis of otoliths will help determine the number of returning adults that were of hatchery origin, as indicated by unique thermal marks on the otolith applied by the hatchery during rearing. 


April 23rd, 2021

It appears that we are in the final stretch of the Chum fry outmigration in Bear Creek, as daily catch dropped significantly earlier this week and has ranged between 10 and 42 fry in recent days.  Steelhead smolt catch has increased, with daily catch for the last week ranging from 12 to nearly 50 smolts.  Prior to the increase, Steelhead smolt catch was in the single digits for the entirety of the screw trap season.  Coho smolt catch is still lagging behind what we expect to see for this time of year, and likely reflects a modest adult Coho run in 2019.  However, Coho fry catch has been significant this year, reflecting the increase in Coho spawners observed in the Lower Columbia River in 2020.  Rain forecasted over the next week will be helpful in bumping up the water level a bit and giving us a few more RPMs.    

Catch at the Clatskanie trap continues to be modest, although a few more smolt-sized fish are starting to show in the catch.  We added a few more panels this week that assisted in increasing trap efficiencies in recent days.  This addition may have also contributed to the first few appearances of our old-friend, Mr. Peamouth.  In total, we captured three Peamouth this week and will undoubtedly see more throughout the remainder of the season.

In other news, on Monday afternoon Derek attended a Zoom conference with the North Coast Watershed Association and other partners to discuss the newly developed "Return of the Redds" strategic action plan.  This plan, completed over multiple years, seeks to improve Chum and other salmonid habitat in the Youngs Bay and Big Creek watersheds through restoration in collaboration with local property owners and stakeholders.  The Chum Reintroduction Project has been actively involved in the plan development and will continue to provide information to guide this effort.  For more information, click on the link below.          



April 16th, 2021

Chum fry catch at Bear Creek this week generally ranged between 200 and 400 fry/day, with good daily trap efficiencies observed.  To date, our preliminary Chum fry estimate is approximately 37,000 fry outmigrants.  In recent weeks we have noticed a few fry being carried over the debris drum and out of the trap, so we have been disabling the debris drum as the weather and wind forecast has allowed.  Steelhead and Cutthroat catch has started to increase, but Coho smolt catch remains a bit lower than observed at this time in recent years.  The last few days has seen an increase in Coho fry outmigrants, with our peak catch for the week (171 fry) observed on Friday.

Catch at the Clatskanie trap this week has been modest, with the usual mixture of Coho, Steelhead, and Cutthroat being captured.  Similar to observations at Bear Creek, Coho smolt captures were few and far between as single digit daily catches were observed through Friday.  This follows several days last week with daily catches approaching 50 Coho smolts.  A handful of Coho and Chinook fry, along with a few larger Steelhead and Cutthroat were also caught daily this week.  With no rain in the forecast in the near future, we will be adjusting the trap and paneling to maintain sufficient RPMs and trap efficiency.  


April 9th, 2021

Chum fry catch has been extremely variable over the last seven days at Bear Creek.  On Sunday, we observed our highest catch of the season with nearly 1,000 fry captured for the day.  By Tuesday, our catch dropped to less than 100 fish before rebounding again to nearly 400 fish by Thursday.  Lower catch has generally coincided with lower trap efficiencies, suggesting the recent decrease in Chum fry catch is more related to daily trap efficiency and does not indicate a significant reduction in the number of Chum fry outmigrating from the watershed this week.  Catch of other species at Bear Creek continues to be modest, with a handful of Coho and Steelhead smolts and various-sized Cutthroat showing in the catch.  Lamprey and Coho fry are also being captured on most days.

At Clatskanie River, Coho smolts remain the dominate catch, with a few larger Steelhead and Cutthroat also being observed.  After a good push of Coho fry early this season through late March, fry catch has decreased to the low single digits in recent weeks.  We continue to look for the presence of Chum fry in the catch, but so far none have been observed.  

In other news this week, staff compiled 2019 and 2020 Chum Salmon otolith (i.e., ear bone) samples from spawning surveys and broodstock collections at Big Creek Hatchery.  The otolith collection, which includes otoliths from 631 adult Chum Salmon sampled over the two years, will be transported to ODFW's Fish Life History Analysis Project (FLHAP) in Corvallis, OR in a few weeks for processing.  The primary goal of this work is determine the origin of each fish (i.e., hatchery or wild) by evaluating otoliths for the presence or absence of thermal marks.  Thermal marking is a technique used by hatcheries to apply a unique mark to the otolith to distinguish hatchery and brood year origin.  Chum otoliths without a unique thermal mark indicate the origin of the fish was from natural production, whereas the presence of a unique thermal mark applied during hatchery rearing indicate the fish is of hatchery origin. 


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 4-9-2021


April 2nd, 2021

This was an exciting week on the Chum project, as our largest release of Chum fry since broodstock collection began at Big Creek Hatchery occurred this week (see pics below).  Approximately 350,000 Chum fry were released in Lower Big Creek throughout the afternoon and into the early evening on Thursday.  The release, which was spread over six successive trips, coincided with the end of the high tide to provide increased cover and time for fry to acclimate to their new surroundings, and then a nice outgoing tide after dark to encourage outmigration.  We hope this release strategy results in good survival and many returning adults to Big Creek Hatchery in several years.

Trapping continues to go well at both screw traps, as weather and river conditions continue to remain favorable for juvenile monitoring.  At Bear Creek, daily Chum fry catch increased to a high of over 600 fish on Wednesday before dropping back under 500 fish on Thursday.  Given we are now approaching peak outmigration for Chum fry and a significant number of adult Chum were outplanted in the watershed this fall, we expect to see strong numbers of Chum fry at the screw trap for the next several weeks.  At Clatskanie River, Coho and Chinook fry catch has begun to decline and smolt catch has increased.  Trap efficiencies for most species remain high, as low flows have allowed staff to keep the trap fully paneled.  


Pictures of the Week 

Recent Photos 4-2-2021


March 19th, 2021

The weather was favorable for trapping this week, as low flows have allowed both traps to remain paneled and trap efficiency for most species has been good.  At Bear Creek, we were excited to see Chum fry catch increase over the course of the week.  From Monday through Wednesday, fry numbers approached 50 fish/day, but catch ramped up on Thursday to 83 fry, and Friday morning we saw catch increase to 157 fry, our highest daily total this season.  We are taken caudal clips for genetic processing from up to 50 individuals/day and look forward to running the samples in the future to evaluate production associated with outplanted and natural origin spawners in the watershed.  Additional catch this week at Bear Creek included numerous Coho fry, a few Coho smolts and large Cutthroat, and the usual assortment of lampreys.  To reduce possible predation in the trap from some of the large predators like Cutthroat, staff have added natural vegetation and wood to the live box to give fry some hiding spots (see pic).  We will remove and add the "cover" as flows and daily debris loads change throughout the season.

At Clatskanie River (see pic), catch has been dominated by Coho fry with counts exceeding 200 fry on Wednesday.  Additional salmonid catch has included some Coho smolts, Chinook fry, and Cutthroat with non-salmonid catch including lampreys, sculpin, Three-Spined Stickleback, Northern Pikeminnow, and Redside Shiner.  We haven't captured Chum fry at Clatskanie River since 2017 and 2018, but hope to see a few more again this year.  


Pictures of the Week    

Recent Photos 3-19-2021



March 12th, 2021

Trap catch was light at both screw traps this week, as water temperatures remain cold with recent overnight air temperatures dropping to near freezing.  We continue to see a handful of Chum fry at Bear Creek on most nights, with a handful of recaptures over the last couple weeks indicating decent trap efficiency.  The low flows since the start of the season have allowed us to completely panel the Bear Creek trap, which should keep trap efficiencies high moving forward.  Additional catch at Bear Creek has been a mixture of Coho fry, a few large Cutthroat and Coho smolts, and some adult Western Brook Lamprey and Lamprey larvae.  Our first trapping week at Clatskanie yielded mostly Coho and Chinook fry, with a handful of Coho smolts and Lamprey also in the catch.  We were able to install panels throughout the week as flows receded, which will improve our trap efficiency moving forward. 

In other news, on Monday we will become fully staffed for the spring trapping season as we welcome back former Chum project Biological Science Assistant, Jonathan LaTour. 


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 3-12-2021


March 5th, 2021

It took a bit longer than usual, but the high water finally receded enough this week to install our Clatskanie River screw trap on Thursday afternoon.  A special thanks goes out to Erik Suring who made the long drive down from Corvallis to assist with the install.  Additionally, Aaron Truesdell and Kelsey Anderson from the OASIS project also provided much needed help.  With heavy rain predicted Thursday night into Friday, we secured the trap near the bank yesterday evening and will either begin fishing the trap tonight or tomorrow night.

The Bear Creek screw trap fished all week, with light catch occurring throughout the week.  A few Chum fry have been captured on most nights this week, which is not a big surprise given the large number of adult Chum captured at Big Creek Hatchery that we outplanted into the Bear Creek watershed in November and December.  However, it is still exciting to see Chum fry production from Bear Creek this early in the spring.  We hope to see many more Chum fry over the coming weeks and be able to make an accurate population estimate of total fry production by the end of the screw trapping season.


February 19th, 2021

This week we installed the Bear Creek screw trap in anticipation of the start of trapping in a few days.  Unfortunately, it appears the weather may delay trapping for part of next week with heavy rains predicted for Sunday and Monday.  Our Clatskanie screw trap installation is planned for next Thursday (February 25th) and we hope flows will remain low enough to install components and the trap that day.   


February 5th, 2021

Staff made a trip to Corvallis this week to pick up the Clatskanie River screw trap and drop off the Bear Creek trap for a quick inspection by Richard.  With the Bear Creek drum giving us issues over the last couple years, we will be installing the former Lewis and Clark trap in Bear Creek this year.  Next week we will begin hauling panels and other gear over to the Bear Creek screw trap site.  Components for rigging the trap will also be setup next week in anticipation of the upcoming screw trap installation.  Staff also continued to work on scale processing and the Chum report this week.        


January 29th, 2021

This week we transported genetic samples from adult Chum collected from broodstock collections at Big Creek Hatchery and found as carcasses on spawning surveys to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia, WA.  We returned with additional blotter paper to be used to store genetic samples from a subsample of Chum fry that we capture this spring at the Bear Creek screw trap.  After adult and juvenile samples are analyzed, we plan to evaluate productivity of both outplanted and natural strays in the Bear Creek watershed.

Staff continued to work on mounting scales and the Chum report this week.  Additionally, we have begun to prepare for installs of both the Bear Creek and Clatskanie River screw traps.  After we pick up the Clatskanie River screw trap from Adair next week, we will decide on possible install dates and seek to acquire an extra hand or two for assistance.  


January 22nd, 2021

With fall Chum spawning surveys now over for the season, for the last few weeks we have been mounting and taking pictures of scales collected during broodstock collection and spawning ground surveys.  We will start reading scales in the next few weeks to determine the age structure of the Chum return this year.  Additionally, we have been reviewing several years of video recordings from fish passage at Willamette Falls fish ladder to determine if Chum passage is a higher occurrence than previously reported.  So far we haven’t found any evidence of more Chum passing than previously reported, but determining species identification from previous recordings is difficult due to dark and grainy video quality.

Work continues on compiling Chum spawning ground survey data from the OASIS project to be included in a comprehensive Chum report to be finished later this year.  This includes performing QA/QC and corrections of these data to ensure all information is complete and no records have been duplicated as both the Chum and OASIS projects worked in tandem on some sites.  Similar efforts are being undertaken for spawning survey data from this past fall, including updating sample collection codes and making sure data was recorded correctly.  This week we completed updating all genetic sample collection codes of samples to be sent to WDFW for analysis.  A contract for this work was also completed this week, with samples to be delivered to WDFW next week.

In preparation for the quickly approaching screw trap season, on Thursday we transported the Clatskanie River screw trap to Richard Biederbeck at Adair for some minor repair work.  Staff brought our spare trap back to Sauvie Island for future storage.  We will likely pick up the Clatskanie screw trap late next week or the week after and be ready to install traps starting in mid-February.  


December 28th, 2020

No new Chum have been captured at Big Creek Hatchery and recent spawning surveys after the high water event showed no new activity on the spawning grounds.  As a result, we will now be transitioning over to mounting and aging Chum scales collected at the hatchery and on the spawning grounds.  Additionally, we are currently in the process of completing a contract with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to process genetic samples collected this fall.  A similar contract will be completed in the coming months with ODFW's Fish Life History Analysis Project to process otoliths.

In addition to sample processing over the next month, staff will be working to complete a detailed report summarizing all Chum data collected over the history of the project.  Significant progress was made on this report prior to the busy fall field season, and we hope to have the report ready for review in the coming months.


December 18th, 2020

Only 11 Chum were outplanted to the Bear Creek watershed this week, with 9 new fish and 2 recaptured outplanted fish from one week ago released in Little Bear Creek.  Spawning surveys in Bear and Little Bear Creeks show spawning activity winding down significantly compared to a few weeks ago, with a few live fish and carcasses remaining in each system.  Additionally, no live Chum were observed on Lower Columbia River spawning surveys conducted outside of the Bear Creek watershed this week, indicating the fall Chum run is nearly over.  It has been an exciting fall for the Chum Reintroduction Project, with Chum catch at Big Creek Hatchery allowing us to meet our highest egg collection devoted solely to the Big Creek conservation broodstock.  And with many more fish captured after we completed spawning, we were able to employ reintroduction efforts for the first time since 2015 by outplanting adults into the Bear Creek watershed.  It will be an exciting spring when the Bear Creek screw trap is installed and we begin monitoring fry production to evaluate spawning success of outplanted fish.     

To date, nearly 1,000 Chum have been captured this fall at Big Creek Hatchery, many more seen than in recent years.  However, it is important to note that catch observed in Big Creek this fall, and the modest number of Chum observed in our Lower Columbia River spawning survey sites, represent a small percentage of historical estimates for the Columbia River basin.  This year's Chum run has been a big improvement over recent year's runs, but is modest in comparison to historical estimates.  Future recovery goals will require many years of efforts to achieve.    


December 10th, 2020

The Big Creek Chum return is slowly starting to wind down, with 35 fish outplanted from the hatchery on Monday and an additional 15 or so fish in the trap by Thursday.  We anticipate outplanting again next Monday and will be very interested to see how many more Chum show in the trap after the forecasted rain this weekend and considering how late we are in the run.  Spawning surveys in Bear and Little Bear Creeks have been very productive, with many live Chum still being observed actively spawning throughout each system and an abundance of carcasses sampled this week.  Nearly all females found as carcasses have been fully spawned, suggesting successful spawning after the outplanting effort.  Redd counts are extremely high in both creeks.  Most Chum observed in Bear and Little Bear Creeks were observed with tags and associated with outplanting efforts.  However, we have found non-tagged fish in Bear and Little Bear Creeks in addition to Big, Little, Lewis and Clark, and SF Klaskanine Rivers this week.   


December 3rd, 2020

The Chum return to Big Creek Hatchery has been nothing short of exceptional this year in comparison to recent years.  After spawning approximately 160 pairs of Chum earlier this season and reaching an egg collection goal of 400,000 eggs to be released as fry into Big Creek next spring, we now continue to outplant adults caught at the hatchery into the nearby Bear Creek watershed (see pics below).  Through today, we have outplanted just shy of 600 adults into Bear and Little Bear Creeks from a total Chum catch at the hatchery now nearing 1,000 adults.  Although the season is starting to wind down and flows have dropped substantially over the last week, we hope to outplant a few more fish before the Chum run ends and possibly top the 1,000 fish mark.  Give the low returns of Chum over recent years in the Lower Columbia, it is safe to say Chum Reintroduction and Big Creek Hatchery staff have been pleasantly surprised and excited to experience such a robust return this year.     

Spawning surveys in the Bear Creek watershed show outplanted adults spawning through most reaches in Bear and Little Bear Creeks, including spawning by some unmarked adults not associated with outplanting efforts.  Although, catch at Big Creek Hatchery shows some of our outplanted fish (approximately 20%) returned to the hatchery (i.e. fallbacks) within a few days after outplanting, it has been interesting to also observe outplanted fish on redds in Bear and Little Bear Creeks the very next day after outplanting.  All fallbacks were transported back to Bear Creek after being recaptured at the hatchery and we will have a better idea of fallback percentage after spawning surveys conclude in a few weeks.  We continue to observe Chum at other spawning sites such as the Klaskanine and Lewis and Clark Rivers.  We will be getting into our surveys with Chum present as many times as possible over the next few weeks to collect biological data off carcasses and to get an accurate assessment of how many adults are on the spawning grounds. 


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 12-3-2020 - Processing Chum at Big Creek Hatchery for Outplanting, and Outplanting Chum in Bear Creek


November 19th, 2020

The Chum keep pouring into Big Creek Hatchery and we have now met our collection goal for the season.  Another 50 pairs were spawned on Tuesday (11/17) to put us close to 400,000 eggs collected for the season.  This was our final spawn for the season and we have now transitioned over to outplanting live adults into the nearby Bear Creek watershed.  After collecting genetic samples, all adults were tagged with two Floy tags (numbered) so we can differentiate outplanted fish from Chum swimming into the Bear Creek watershed volitionally.  On Tuesday, 100 adults were released into Bear and Little Bear Creeks followed by another 163 adults on Wednesday.  We will continue outplanting Chum into Bear Creek and evaluate outplanting success by conducting spawning surveys throughout the watershed through mid-December.  Additionally, we will also be installing our screw trap in Bear Creek again this spring to monitor juvenile production.  For the last three years, a handful of Chum fry were captured at this site indicating minimal adult spawning has occurred in recent years.  We hope to see significant production this spring after the large outplanting effort this fall.

High water has pushed spawning surveys back this week, but we anticipate finishing our latest round of survey visits over the weekend.  However, we were able to survey a couple of sites today and observed 5 Chum adults in Little Creek, tributary to Big Creek.  Our Bear Creek surveys will be conducted tomorrow and Saturday and we hope to see some outplanted fish on redds.  But we do know not all of our outplanted fish stayed in Bear Creek as several tagged fish showed back up at the hatchery today.  We will be able to more fully determine the number of "fallbacks" to Big Creek Hatchery when we continue outplanting next week.   


November 12th, 2020

In early October we welcomed Biological Science Assistants Brian Libercajt and Lane Jackson back to the project.  Our fall field season began mid-month as we have worked with the Oregon Adult Salmonid Inventory and Sampling (OASIS) Project to conduct Chum Salmon spawning surveys throughout the Youngs Bay, Big Creek, and Clatskanie River populations.  Few Chum were observed on spawning surveys in the last three years in these populations and expectations were modest going into the current season.  However, crews have been pleasantly surprised with early Chum observations at several sites including Lewis and Clark and Klaskanine Rivers (Youngs Bay population), and Big, Bear, and Little Bear Creeks (Big Creek population).  Additionally, Chum broodstock collection at Big Creek Hatchery started off with bang as 60 pairs of Chum were spawned during our first collection event (November 6th).  To put this into perspective, the number of pairs spawned on this date exceeded the total number of pairs spawned annually from 2016 through 2019 at Big Creek Hatchery.  Furthermore, today (November 12th) we spawned an additional 50 pairs of Chum.  That will leave us with only about 20 more pairs to meet a collection goal of around 300,000 eggs, a number the Chum Reintroduction Project has yet to achieve and dedicate solely to future broodstock releases in Big Creek.  We remain cautiously optimistic about the rest of the season including the possibility of capturing significantly more Chum at the hatchery and observing more fish on the spawning grounds.     


June 12th, 2020

This week we finished removing both the Bear Creek and Clatskanie River screw traps.  Special thanks goes to Russell Mead who owns the Bear Creek property and saved our backs by using his tractor to help us drag the pontoons and livebox to the truck.  Additionally, Aaron Truesdell and Kelsey Anderson from the OASIS project were gracious enough to also assist despite a busy survey day planned afterward. On Thursday, Richard Biederbeck made the long drive down to Clatskanie to provide much needed help.  The Chum crew is grateful for the extra help as it made the removals much easier and safer for us. 

Today (June 12th) we bid farewell to Lane Jackson who spends his last day with us before transferring over to his summer creel position.  Lane did a great job for us this season and we look forward to getting him back on the project next fall.

We will be conducting our end of season meeting on June 17th and are now wrapping up field activities until next fall.  We anticipate resuming fieldwork in mid-October with spawning surveys and Chum broodstock collections at Big Creek Hatchery and West Fork Grays River.  Be sure to check back in to see our latest sampling updates.


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 6-12-2020 - Dwarf Pacific Lamprey adult, Finishing Up at Clatskanie River, Much Appreciated Help at Bear Creek


June 5th, 2020

The season is quickly winding down and we will be removing both screw traps next week.  Catches at the Clatskanie River trap have continued to dwindle, with only a few Coho and Steelhead smolts still showing in the catch.  Trout and Chinook fry and handful of Cutthroat Trout are also being caught daily along with the occasional "sizable" Northern Pikeminnow.  In addition to removing screw traps, we are in the process of downloading temperature loggers installed at various locations around the area and on the north coast.


May 29th, 2020

Not much new to report at the traps this week, as catch has dropped substantially for most species.  Coho and Steelhead smolt catch has now dropped to less than 20 fish/day at the Clatskanie trap, with the majority of recent catch consisting of Trout fry and Peamouth. This includes catch of over 300 Trout fry and 100 Peamouth today (Friday).  Although new estimates have not been run since our last update, we can now confirm that our Coho smolt estimate will come in significantly lower than observed over the last two years.  With the season winding down quickly at the Clatskanie trap and the Bear Creek trap now shut down for the season, we are now preparing for trap removals in a couple weeks.

In other news, we recently finished up producing a short film on the amazing Peamouth migration in Bear Creek.  The film highlights the impressive migration of this native minnow and the challenges of monitoring juvenile salmonids during this unpredictable event.  Click the link below or go directly to the videography section of the webpage to check it out!

Where Monitoring Meets Migration: The Amazing and Underappreciated Spawning Run of the Peamouth


May 22nd, 2020

Overnight monitoring at Bear Creek for the last several days during the Peamouth migration showed how unpredictable those little buggers can be. Our counts ranged from nearly 5,415 fish captured Friday night to a low of 190 fish on Saturday night, proving once again that being out there all night to clear the trap regularly is the safe choice but is not needed every night.  Unfortunately, the Peamouth have stayed tight-lipped and have yet to let us know when we can sleep in and when they will show up in big numbers.  Catch of Coho and Steelhead smolts remains consistent and Cutthroat Trout catch has also increased this week at Bear Creek.

Catch of Coho and Steelhead smolts at Clatskanie is slowly dropping, with daily catches showing we are now past peak for both species.  Cutthroat Trout catch has increased this week and we are now seeing an increase in Trout fry showing up in the catch (see pics below).  These recently hatched fry are too small (~1”) to identify as either Steelhead or Cutthroat Trout.  We also captured our third Pacific Lamprey juvenile this week (see pics below). 


Screw Trap Catch and Population Estimates (Preliminary - through May 17th)

Table showing screw trap catch and population estimates through 5-17-2020 for Bear Creek and Clatskanie River

See Species Observed for pictures of captured species. 

Click Common Names for the full name and further information for other species shown above. 


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 5-19-2020 - Trout Fry, Pacific Lamprey Juvenile, Skulpin


May 15th, 2020  

The story of this past week is the beginning of the Peamouth spring spawning migration at Bear Creek.  After a robust first showing of 277 Peamouth captured last Friday, we shut down the trap for two days last weekend to allow us to switch from normal morning trap checks to all night monitoring.  This effort involves a staff member processing fish hourly throughout the night (as opposed to once in the morning) and has been shown to be the only "full-proof" way to avoid overcrowding in the trap livebox due to the incredible abundance of Peamouth returning to Bear Creek.  This turned out to be a wise decision, as approximately 5,000 Peamouth were captured on both Sunday and Monday nights.  Catches on both of these nights would have easily exceeded the holding capacity of the trap livebox if only one morning check was conducted.  Past experience has also revealed the Peamouth spawning migration to be extremely unpredictable, and this played out on Tuesday night when catch dropped to less than 100 fish.  We will be starting another round of overnight monitoring tonight and it will be interesting to see what our catch will be this week.  In the coming weeks we will be posting a short film about the amazing Peamouth spawning run in Bear Creek.

Coho and Steelhead smolt catch continued to be strong at Bear Creek this week, with some Cutthroat Trout also showing in the catch.  At Clatskanie River, Coho and Steelhead smolt catch is showing signs of slowing down with catch now dropping to double digits for both species.  Although we still have several weeks of continued trapping, it seems likely our Coho smolt estimate will be significantly lower than observed in the last two years (+50,000 Coho smolts).  Cutthroat Trout catch increased this week with 20 to 40 fish captured daily.  A few Chinook fry and the occasional Coho fry are also showing in the catch.


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 5-15-2020 - Peamouth, Paneled Bear Creek Trap, Clatskanie River Pacific Treefrog


May 8th, 2020

We had a few surprise visitors and an old nemesis show up at the traps on Bear Creek and Clatskanie River this week (see pictures below).  At Bear Creek, our surprise visitor was a non-native American Bullfrog that was captured early in the week and humanely dispatched after removal from the trap.  At Clatskanie River, we captured our first Smallmouth Bass (a juvenile) since sampling began in the watershed in 2012 and two adult wild Steelhead kelts.  The two adult Steelhead were a bit of a surprise as trap efficiency at this site is modest even for juvenile fishes due to the large size of the Clatskanie River, so catching a couple elusive adult Steelhead was unexpected.  Peamouth (our old nemesis) made their first appearance at Bear Creek on Friday, with a strong showing of 277 fish on the first day.  The amazing abundance of Peamouth at this site can make trapping difficult as catch can sometimes exceed holding capacity in the trap overnight.  Past efforts show the only way to avoid overcrowding in the trap livebox during the Peamouth migration is to man the trap overnight and remove Peamouth as necessary, so we will be exploring this as a potential option moving forward.  Salmonid catch remained consistent this week, as Coho and Steelhead smolt catch indicates we are nearing peak migration.  Pacific Lamprey adult catch at Clatskanie River remains strong, with one dozen or so adults captured in some days this week.


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 5-8-2020 - American Bullfrog, Smallmouth Bass, Wild Steelhead


May 1st, 2020

Fish catch at both screw traps remains lower than observed at this time during the last several years, but catch of smolts and various-sized Cutthroat Trout did show a nice bump this week.  Coho smolt daily catch at Clatskanie River finally exceeded 100 fish this week, as 177 smolts were captured on Wednesday.  Steelhead smolt daily catch ranged from the low 40's to nearly 100 fish, and combined Cutthroat Trout catch was in the mid-teens for most of the week.  Few fry were captured at Clatskanie River, but Pacific Lamprey (5-15 adults) and Western Brook Lamprey (16-31 adults) daily catch remained strong.  Additionally, several Pacific Lamprey adults were observed spawning this week on an old adult Steelhead redd marked by the OASIS project earlier this spring.

Catch is also creeping up at Bear Creek, with Coho smolt daily catch now in the mid-to-upper 20's and Steelhead Smolt daily catch reaching a season high (35 smolts) this past Sunday.  Modest numbers of Cutthroat trout were captured this week and fry were absent in our catch.  Hatchery Coho smolts had been an infrequent trap catch so far this year compared to what we observed last year, but daily catches (1-4 smolts) have been steady for the last week.  Based on tag recoveries last year, these fish are most likely strays from recent releases at Big Creek Hatchery and Tongue Point net pens.   


April 24th, 2020

We finally started to see an increase in larger fish at the screw traps, as Coho and Steelhead smolt catch increased significantly this week at both sites.  This includes two very large Coho smolts captured at the Clatskanie River screw trap measuring a whopping 165mm and 174mm, respectively.  Interestingly we were able to recap one of these fish the following day (see picture below).  Fry catch remains low at both sites, as small numbers of Chinook and Coho fry are being observed daily at Clatskanie River and an occasional Coho fry is being caught at Bear Creek.  Unsurprisingly, we have only observed two Chum fry this year at Bear Creek and none at Clatskanie River as expectations were low due to the poor adult return this past fall.  Lamprey are making a strong appearance at Clatskanie River right now, as numerous redds are being observed and catch has remained consistent for both Pacific Lamprey and Western Brook Lamprey adults.  More specifically, in the last week we have captured nearly 80 Western Brook Lamprey and 40 Pacific Lamprey adults at this site.  Peamouth have also started to show at Clatskanie River in small numbers, including one very large fish around 260mm (nearly 11 inches!).  At Bear Creek we have yet to see any Peamouth thus far, with the first fish typically showing at this site during the first week in May.  Their amazing abundance at this site has made trapping difficult to impossible the past two seasons in May, so it will be interesting to see what Peamouth catch looks like over the next few weeks in Bear Creek. 


Pictures of the Week

Recent Photos 4-23-2020 - Big Peamouth, Pacific Lamprey Redds, Western Brook Lamprey adults, Large Coho Smolt Recapture



More Spring Pictures

Recent Photos 4-12-2020 - Foley Creek Chum Fry Sampling, Chum Fry, Low Water Screw Trapping at Bear Creek, Male and Female (with Eggs) Western Brook Lamprey, Catskin Debris in Screw Trap, Eulachon


April 17th, 2020

Catch at the screw traps is beginning to pick up, but overall catch has been relatively modest through the first part of our season.  The prevalence of low water conditions for most of the season has allowed us to panel each trap aggressively, but for the second time in a month we are in much need of rain to help keep our traps spinning sufficiently.  This is especially true at Bear Creek, where flows more resemble August than mid-April.  Since our last update, we have captured a few Chum Salmon fry at Bear Creek, confirming the report of adult Chum Salmon observed spawning upstream by a local landowner this past fall.  However, as expected, it appears Chum fry catch will be modest again this year as few adults returned to the Lower Columbia River basin this past fall and only two fry have been captured at the trap thus far.  Other captures of note include a number of precocial hatchery Chinook juveniles at both traps and two Eulachon (i.e. Smelt) captured at the Bear Creek trap.  The Eulachon were captured on back to back days in early April and are the first two captures of this species on our project.      


Chum fry sampling at Foley Creek on the Oregon coast went well in mid-March.  It was a slow grind to capture all 200+ fry for C. Shasta lab studies.  However, we were able to electrofish downstream while herding fish into a seine net and finally capture our target goal over the two days.  A big thanks goes out to the Tillamook District office for providing bodies, electrofishing gear, and Coho take from their permit to help get the job done.


Outside of project related news, in late March we donated the majority of our disposal gloves to the Astoria Primary Care Clinic at Columbia Memorial Hospital to assist with the general shortage of PPE due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


March 5th, 2020

After spending the last month working with Richard Biederbeck in Corvallis on screw trap repairs, staff installed screw traps in Clatskanie River and Bear Creek last week.  Staff conducted annual training on trap maintenance and safety on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then began fishing traps Thursday evening.  Catch has been modest at both traps during our first trapping week, with most catch consisting of Coho fry and smolts and Lamprey larva.  With a few adult Chum Salmon spawners reported by landowners in Bear Creek this past fall, we anticipate seeing at least a few Chum fry in Bear Creek this spring.  No Chum fry were observed in Clatskanie River last year after a few fry were captured in 2017 and 2018, so it will be interesting to see if we catch Chum fry at this site again in 2020.  Given the low abundance of adult Chum Salmon spawners in the Lower Columbia River basin this past fall, we do not expect to see many Chum fry at the screw traps this spring.


Interviews were conducted this past Monday for our Biological Science Assistant (BSA) temp position to help with juvenile fish monitoring this spring.  We hope to fill the position by next week and have someone trained and ready to start ASAP.


Next Tuesday, we will begin work in Foley Creek, tributary to the Nehalem River on the northern Oregon coast, collecting water samples and Chum fry for a study on Ceratonova shasta (C. shasta).  C. shasta is a parasite known to infect Chum Salmon and its presence in the Lower Columbia River basin is believed to negatively impact the survival and health of Chum Salmon.  Past work suggests C. shasta is also native to the Nehalem River basin, and may possibly co-occur with a strong run of Chum Salmon in the Foley Creek watershed.  The goal of the water sampling work in Foley Creek is to determine if C. shasta is present in the spring in Foley Creek and, if so, to what extent it may overlap the Chum fry outmigration in that watershed.  Additionally, Chum fry will be collected to evaluate susceptibility (or potential resistance) to C. shasta in lab trials at an aquatic health lab in Corvallis.  A big thanks goes out to Troy Laws from the ODFW North Coast Watershed District in Tillamook for agreeing to help us out with this work.