Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program
SOW Report
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Bull Trout Movement:Tucannon
Province Subbasin %
Columbia Plateau Snake Lower 100.00%
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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is collaborating the USFWS to conduct this study and WDFW is responsible for various tasks.  This Statement of Work is for the WDFW component of the study and identifies WDFW activities and estimated costs.  USFWS activities, tasks and budget for the Tucannon River Bull Trout Telemetry Study are not included here.

1.  Determine the spatial distribution, migration timing, and movements of adult migratory bull trout in the Tucannon and Snake rivers. (WDFW will be the primary lead for all trapping and radio tracking in the Tucannon River and will assist the USFWS with other tasks).

2.  Summarize and distribute the information to others (WDFW will assist)


The recent listing of the Columbia River Distinct Population Segment of bull trout identified one of the major threats to the species as fragmentation resulting from dams on overwintering habitats of migratory subpopulations (Federal Register, 1998).  A migratory subgroup in the Tucannon River apparently utilizes the mainstem Snake River for adult rearing on a seasonal basis.  Their occurrence in the hydropower system has been verified by a few incidental observations during sampling in Lower Monumental Pool (Buchanan et al. 1997 citing Ward), and in the adult passage facilities at Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams in the early 1990s (Kleist, in litt. 1993).  Based on fish counting schedules outlined in COE (1997), no attempts at adult fish enumerations are made at the Lower Monumental or Little Goose fish counting windows from Nov. 1 through March 31. Unfortunately, this scheduled abandonment of fish counting activities coincides with adult bull trout movements into larger mainstem systems for adult rearing and foraging as indicated in other Columbia Basin subpopulations (Elle 1995; Faler and Bair 1992; Martin et al. 1995; Theisfeld et al. 1996; Underwood et al. 1995).  As a result, it is unknown if the existing fishways at the lower Snake River dams are suitable for bull trout passage, or if migratory fish originating from the Tucannon River attempt to pass these facilities on a regular basis.  

The potential for bull trout movements throughout the migratory corridor is high, but from the standpoint of future delisting and requirements set forth in the FCRPS Biological Opinion (USFWS, 2000) the determination of temporal and spatial distribution in the mainstem is crucial in developing recovery actions, estimating "take", and successful consultation on system improvement actions.   This project will help meet Reasonable and Prudent Measures, and Conservation Recommendations associated with the Lower Snake River dams in the FCRPS Biological Opinion.

Rieman and McIntyre (1993) describe unimpeded migratory corridors as important habitats to the persistence and interaction of local populations.  They also indicate that disruption and/or modification of migratory corridors can increase stress, reduce growth and survival, and potentially result in the loss of migratory life-history types in a subpopulation. With these factors in mind, the primary question to be answered is: Does the existing hydropower system on the Lower Snake River limit the capabilities of Tucannon River bull trout to complete their migratory behavior, or are the current hydropower operations compatible with recovery and conservation of the species?  The secondary goal of the project is to examine the movements and spatial/temporal distribution of migratory bull trout within the Tucannon River and to determine the proportion of migratory fish that leave the Tucannon River to overwinter.  The bull trout stock status in the Tucannon River is considered healthy by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW 1998), but little is known about their migrations in the Tucannon and Snake river subbasins.  Underwood et al. (1995) conducted a radio telemetry study of adult bull trout within the Tucannon River, but the tracking data were limited, with only a few fish tagged and only one winter of tracking.  As a result, it did not provide a complete assessment of the migrations and movements of bull trout-especially in the mainstem Snake River.  Transmitters used in this study were reaching the end of their life expectancy at the time the tagged fish were outmigrating toward the Snake River.  Contact was lost with all fish near the mouth of the Tucannon River.  

This study will focus on the migratory component of bull trout in the Tucannon River and describe their use of the Snake River Reservoirs in both spatial and temporal terms.


Critical Assumptions: The primary assumption associated with the study is that the movements of radio-tagged bull trout are not different from the movements of other bull trout in the subgroup. This assumption is critical to the project as a whole.  The use of long life transmitters and tagging well before spawning or major migrations should reduce the effects of tagging on fish behavior.  Martin et al.  (1995) found that surgically implanted dummy transmitters did not affect fish survival, growth, or gonad development in rainbow trout held in captivity.  Similar transmitters have been used in other bull trout studies in recent years without indications of adverse behavioral affects (Elle 1995 ,  Faler and Blair 1992, Underwood et al.  1995, Jon Germond, ODFW, pers. comm.).

We also assume that we can tag enough migratory bull trout to provide meaningful tracking results in the Tucannon and Snake rivers.  Trapping data from the past 2 years have shown that over 100 taggable sized bull trout have been captured at the Tucannon Hatchery weir during the spring migration.

Sampling: The approach of the study is to use radio-telemetry to monitor the movements of adult bull trout as they emigrate to the Snake River to rear in the winter.  Up to twenty adult bull trout per year would be captured and tagged in the Tucannon River and at the Tucannon Hatchery weir in spring of years 2002, 2003, and 2004.   In addition, we will capture and tag an additional twenty bull trout during the fall outmigration using a downstream migrant weir and/or hook and line sampling.

Each captured bull trout will be measured, weighed, marked with a  PIT tag, and released above the weir.  Those fish of appropriate size (> 50 times transmitter weight in air) will be surgically implanted with 360-685 day life expectancy radio-tags (Objectives 1-4).   Surgical procedures will generally follow those used by Faler et al. (1988) and Faler and Bair (1992). We are tagging a portion of the fish in fall to increase the chances of monitoring outmigrants into the Snake River.

Radio-tags for this study will be obtained from Lotek Engineering, and Advanced Telemetry Systems (ATS).  The Lotek tags are 3 volt, DSP compatible coded tags in models MCF3EM (8.9 g, 399 day life expectancy at 5s burst rate) and MCFT3A (16 g, 761 day life expectancy at 5s burst rate).  With the smaller transmitter, we could safely radio tag bull trout as small as 445 g, or approximately 1 lb.  Specific frequencies and codes to be used will be coordinated through the University of Idaho so that existing fixed receiver stations in the Snake River will have the capability of logging radio-tagged bull trout as they pass those sites.  ATS tags are model F1830, weigh 11 g, and have a life expectancy of 241 days.  Critical operating sites for this study will include 4 fixed stations at the upstream and downstream ends of the adult fishways at Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams.  These fixed site data loggers will be in operation throughout the winter and spring (2002 - 2005) to record bull trout movements through fish ladders at the dams (Objective 2).  In addition, a fixed site will be operated near the mouth of the Tucannon River to identify timing of movements out of the Tucannon subbasin and into the mainstem Snake River.  Another fixed site will likely be established and operated periodically at the Tucannon Fish Hatchery to record timing of fish movement in the upper Tucannon River.  Radio-tagged fish locations will also be monitored approximately weekly throughout the year in the Tucannon River from shore, and biweekly by boat, shore, or aircraft between November and May (Objective 1).  Individual fish locations will be recorded by river kilometer, and in relation to distance and direction to known landmarks.

During FY '03, we observed a very low tag retention rate for overwintering bull trout in the Tucannon River, and there was some evidence of body wall rejection from recaptured fish.  Because ATS tags are known to be encapsulated in grade of scotch cast used for human tissue implants, we wanted to test some of their tags against the Lotek tags to see if better tag retention could be attained.  In addition, we will also be able to test depth transmission of tags from the two manufacturers to determine which would be best for monitoring movements in the mainstem Snake River.  Ten tags were obtained from ATS in FY '03, and no more than 8 of these will be implanted in bull trout; two will be retained for testing depth transmission.  Bull trout implanted with ATS tags will be monitored manually with a mobile receiver unless testing indicates that the ATS equipment is far superior to Lotek.  If this occurs, the project sponsor will contact BPA's COTR to determine how to move forward with potential project modifications.  

Analysis: Winter distribution of bull trout will be delineated by the furthermost upstream and downstream fish locations observed in the study period and by month.  Distribution will be described monthly as a river reach encompassed by river kilometer identifiers at the upper and lower limits (Objective 1).  

Data retrieved from fixed station data loggers will be examined to determine if bull trout move through the fish ladders at either dam.  If so, passage rates will be calculated from the time of entry to time of exiting.   If sufficient numbers of radio tagged fish move through the fishways, the variability of the data set will be examined to determine generalities in those rates and data outliers, if they exist.  Bull trout passage rates will be compared to salmon and steelhead passage rates already determined at those dams by Bjornn and Peery (1992) to detect differences, if any, in passage rates between species (Objective 2).

Bull trout that fall back through spill gates, navigation locks, or turbine intakes will not likely be detected at the fishway fixed stations.  We will use distributional data from tailrace receivers (operated by the Univ. of Idaho) boat, shore or aircraft locations to determine the occurrence and frequency of fall back through the dams (Objective 3).

Data sets from individual bull trout that move out of Lower Monumental Pool will be examined to detect the return of those fish to the Tucannon River, and passing the hatchery weir, the following spring.  A loss determination will be inferred if those fish do not return through a dam, and into Lower Monumental Pool by May, the following year (Objective 4).  It is possible that none of the radio-tagged bull trout will leave Lower Monumental Pool, and if so, an estimate of loss/take may not be possible.

The possibility of tag failure or signal loss resulting from excessive depth may also cause problems with data interpretation.  These situations will need examination on a case by case basis to consider their data applicability to the project objectives.
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* Expenditures data includes accruals and are based on data through 29-Feb-2020.

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Cost Reimbursement (CNF)
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Viewing of Work Statement Elements

Deliverable Title WSE Sort Letter, Number, Title Start End Complete
NOAA permit and ESA take reports A: 165. Federal Permits 03/31/2006 01/06/2006
Bull trout database B: 158. Tag Bull Trout 09/29/2006 12/15/2006
Compiled data on bull trout movements in the Tucannon River C: 157. Monitor Bull Trout in the Tucannon & Snake rivers 07/31/2006 12/29/2006
Compiled bull trout movements and verification of status of fish D: 157. Snorkel surveys to verify fish & radio condition 09/30/2006 09/30/2006
Determine bull trout movements in rivers E: 162. Analyze data on tagged bull trout movements in the Tucannon & Snake rivers 09/29/2006
Summarize and distribute bull trout information F: 161. Information Share 09/29/2006
FY05 Annual Report G: 132. FY05 Annual Report 12/31/2006 10/30/2006
Successful Project Administration H: 119. Project Administration 09/29/2006 12/31/2006

Viewing of Implementation Metrics
Viewing of Environmental Metrics

Primary Focal Species Work Statement Elements
Trout, Bull (S. confluentus) (Threatened)
  • 2 instances of WE 157 Collect/Generate/Validate Field and Lab Data
  • 1 instance of WE 158 Mark/Tag Animals
  • 1 instance of WE 161 Disseminate Raw/Summary Data and Results
  • 1 instance of WE 162 Analyze/Interpret Data

Sort WE ID WE Title NEPA NOAA USFWS NHPA Has Provisions Inadvertent Discovery Completed
A 165 Federal Permits
B 158 Tag Bull Trout
C 157 Monitor Bull Trout in the Tucannon & Snake rivers
D 157 Snorkel surveys to verify fish & radio condition
E 162 Analyze data on tagged bull trout movements in the Tucannon & Snake rivers
F 161 Information Share
G 132 FY05 Annual Report
H 119 Project Administration
I 185 Periodic Status Reports for BPA