Read the 2012 Bull Trout Task Force end-of

Making a difference for salmon
Bull Trout Task Force: End of Year Reflections 2012
The Bull Trout Task Force (BTTF) is a collaborative effort between multiple organizations in the
Yakima Basin to protect and restore bull trout populations through the removal of recreational dams,
outreach to anglers and recreationists, and population monitoring. 2011 was the pilot year of the Bull
Trout Task Force. In summer and fall of 2012, the BTTF was comprised of two biologists, Cassandra
Anderson and Ashton Bunce, and was sponsored and managed by the Mid-Columbia Fisheries
Enhancement Group. The Bull Trout Task Force not only benefits bull trout, but other salmonids as well
by providing additional availability of resources during the short field season, conducting outreach and
removing recreation dams. Therefore, we are looking to expand the Bull Trout Task Force’s mission in
2013; Mid-Columbia Fisheries will be sponsoring the Wild Salmonid Task Force which will focus on
protecting and restoring native salmonids in the Yakima Basin.
Recreation Dams
One of the objectives of the Bull Trout Task Force is to locate and dismantle user-built
recreation dams. These dams are often built of rocks, logs, sand, silt and other debris. The dams are
often created by river recreationists to back up water and create a swimming hole in streams and are
not intended to be harmful. However, when left in a stream, they can become a passage barrier for
fish, especially small resident fish trying to move upstream during spawning season. Therefore, the
BTTF walked several bull trout spawning tributaries, mapping and removing any unnatural passage
barriers they located. The Task Force also posted signs informing the public that rock dams can be
harmful to fish passage and asking them to remove them after they are finished recreating.
Another goal of the Task Force is to educate anglers and river recreationists about bull trout,
how to identify them and what you can do to help protect them. There are a variety of different ways
through which the Task Force educates the public including organized campground presentations,
classroom presentations, talking to anglers and recreationists out in the field, posting signs and
attending various festivals. Some of the educational materials produced by the Task Force include bull
trout versus brook trout identification cards (Spanish and English) and pamphlets about threatened
bull trout in the Yakima Basin and Central Washington. The Task Force has also developed a variety of
bull trout educational activities for children including a beaded life cycle activity, a paper-plate fish
activity, and a coloring sheet about bull trout. Additionally, the BTTF has created a display board and
PowerPoint presentation about bull trout to use for various functions.
The BTTF is also intended to help with bull trout population monitoring throughout the Yakima
Basin. There are 15 distinct bull trout populations in the basin that are monitored through redd and
snorkel surveys. The redd surveys are used to estimate population counts in each stream by inferring
that each redd represents a male and a female fish that have spawned together. Snorkel surveys are
used to look for presence or absence of bull trout in places where their existence is debated or to
obtain genetic samples through fin clips in populations where stock structure is questionable.
Clear Creek Dam Passage Assessment
In addition to annual monitoring efforts, 2012 was the start of a bull trout passage study by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of this study is to monitor the pre- and post spawn
movement of adfluvial bull trout from Rimrock Lake into the North Fork Tieton River above Clear Lake.
The objective is to see when the NF Tieton bull trout population attempts to migrate past Clear Creek
Dam and how successful they are at using the fish ladder. Two pit tag arrays were installed along the
top of the spillway and fish ladder to monitor the migration of bull trout. Bull Trout were trapped
migrating downstream on the North Fork Tieton using a weir and were measured, sexed and tagged
with 23 mm pit tags. The Bull Trout Task Force worked shifts to help monitor the trap throughout the
day and night. The trap was set up from September 29 through October 5 th, 2012. The study is to
continue for an additional two years.
Summary of Accomplishments
Rock Dams
The Bull Trout Task Force removed over 30 rock dams during the summer of 2012 and opened
up approximately 30 river miles that were potentially blocked to fish migrating upstream to spawn.
(Appendix A).
North Fork Teanaway rock dam.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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Ashton removing the North Fork Teanaway rock dam.
After the NF Teanaway rock dam was removed.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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The Bull Trout Task Force contacted a total of 1875 people in organized settings and 227 in nonorganized settings for a total of 2102 people.
Presentations Presentations
Number of People
Organized outreach proved to be very successful – we educated 8-times as many people doing
organized outreach compared to non-organized outreach. However, we spent over twice as many
hours doing non-organized outreach compared to organized outreach.
Non-Organized Outreach
Organized Outreach
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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In 2012 educational products that were created by the 2011 Bull Trout Task Force were used,
such as: Yakima Basin bull trout brochure (modified in 2012) and the bull trout identification cards. In
2012 the Task Force created: Central Washington bull trout brochure, bull trout vehicle identification
handouts and two new kids’ activities. We also used the Washington State bull trout versus brook trout
identification sheet for posting on Forest Service campground boards. All of the educational items
listed were used throughout the season.
The Task Force used standard scripts for outreach to anglers and to classrooms, and modified
our approach to fit the audience. Our scripts are included as Appendix B.
2012 Issaquah Salmon Days.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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Chinook Cabin Owner’s Association presentation.
The BTTF assisted in 27 redd surveys on 11 rivers and tributaries in the 2012 bull trout redd survey
season. The Task Force also completed three snorkel surveys; two in the North Fork Ahtanum Creek
south of Yakima and one in the North Fork Teanaway in Ellensburg, WA for a total of 6 miles snorkeled.
Some of the notable results from the 2012 population monitoring include increased redd counts at
Indian Creek in Naches and decreased redd counts in the Upper Yakima in Kachess River, Box Canyon
and Gold Creek in the Upper Yakima. We also noted absence of bull trout in the Teanaway River for the
sixth year in a row. The Bull Trout Task Force was an important component of the 2012 bull trout redd
survey season. We were able to help on the majority of the redd surveys this year and on all three
snorkel surveys. The fisheries biologists from around the Yakima Basin usually collaborate to complete
the surveys, but with other ongoing studies, there were less biologists able to help this year, making
the assistance provided by the BTTF that much more critical.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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Cassandra pointing at a redd on Deep Creek. Photo credit: G. Toretta.
Clear Creek Dam Passage Assessment
The Bull Trout Task Force was trained to prepare for the Clear Creek Dam Passage Assessment.
We attended a PIT tag training put on by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to learn how to PIT tag with
23 mm tags. The BTTF also attended an ATV training put on by the Washington Department of Fish
and Wildlife. This was necessary because ATV use was needed to access the trapping site.
During the study, the Task Force spent several days at the trapping site and camped out over night.
While there, our duties included organizing supplies, checking the trap during the day and throughout
the night for bull trout, helping the biologists to measure, sex and tag the fish, recording data and
cleaning debris from the trap.
During the 2012 season, 10 adult bull trout were tagged on the North Fork Tieton. There were
a total of 17 bull trout redds found on the North Fork Tieton, indicating a minimum population size of
34 fish. Therefore, it is thought that some of the fish finished spawning and migrated downstream
prior to installation. For the 2013 season, the trap will be put in at an earlier date to see if this
increases the amount of fish caught. Additionally, fish were able to swim into the trap and then turn
around and swim back out through a 4-inch opening. This was problematic as fish were caught and
then escaped. It will be another area for improvement for the 2013 season.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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PIT tag training the BTTF attended before the Clear Creek Dam Passage Assessment.
Cassandra holding a bull trout that was captured in the trap on the NF Tieton.Photo credit: P. Monk.
Organized outreach was the most successful outreach method. During 30.5 hours of organized
outreach we were able to reach 1,875 people. At the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival this year, we were
able to reach over 1,200 people in just two days. This was definitely a very effective way of educating
a larger number of people and a target audience in just a short amount of time.
Rock dam removal also proved to be very successful in the 2012 season. While conducting a
redd survey, The Bull Trout Task Force found a recreation dam spanning the width of the channel on
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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the North Fork Ahtanum River that was made of large rocks, woody debris and silt. The dam was raised
about 12-inches out of the water and had created a large pool behind it. The North Fork Ahtanum River
has crucial spawning habitat for resident bull trout and other salmonids. No redds were found
upstream the dam, but when the dam was removed a couple days later, two bull trout redds were
found upstream of the recreation dam. It is assumed that this dam was a migration barrier to the
resident bull trout migrating upstream to spawn. Rock dams were removed in several other bull trout
spawning tributaries in the Yakima Basin as well and block several miles of primary spawning habitat in
some of the streams. Therefore, it is vital to have an on-the-ground crew walking and monitoring
these streams for passage barriers in the coming years.
Population monitoring was also another important accomplishment of the Task Force. Several
of the fisheries biologists within the Yakima Basin have thanked us for our help this year on the redd
surveys. We were well trained and able to get accurate data to add to over 20 years of bull trout redd
survey data already collected.
While the summer was very successful and beneficial to bull trout recovery, there are some areas
to be improved upon for future years of the task force. This includes safety, management and
scheduling and communication.
The BTTF was very safe during the 2012 season; however, we were often out walking tributaries
where there was no cellular service and we just had our Forest Service radio. The FS radio was a
great communication line and we felt safe knowing we could call CWICC right away if there was an
emergency; however, we could potentially have issues with battery power. If for some reason the
batteries died (we always tried to carry enough new ones) or it got dropped in the water, we would
have been out of luck if an emergency occurred. Also, our procedure for check-in/check-out
worked great, although if an emergency happened and we didn’t check-out in the evening, it could
potentially be hours after an accident has happened and we could have already lost vital hours.
o Mid-Columbia Fisheries will be purchasing a Spot Satellite GPS Locator for next year’s Task
Force. The spot locator will allow the Task Force to check-in by sending the GPS location of
where the Task Force is located and letting the Task Force’s supervisor know they are OK.
The spot locator also has an SOS function that when activated, notifies emergency services
of the GPS location and that assistance is needed. This device allows 24-hour emergency
Management/Scheduling/Communication was challenging at times this year. The BTTF was often
out in the field the entire day and at the end of the day had to arrange their schedule and catch up
on emails. Task Force started their day early and often worked late into the evening. Therefore, it
was sometimes hard to get a hold of our key contacts. As a suggestion for how to make the Task
Force stronger, it would be very helpful to have a coordinator who can dedicate time in their week
to scheduling and communicating with biologists in the Yakima Basin about where the Task Force is
needed. Or, if there are have two crews next year, the crew lead for each crew can take a little time
each week to meet with the other crew lead and work on scheduling and reflect on what worked
well and what needs improvement on the previous week of work.
While we were at WDFW in Yakima we saw bull trout versus brook trout identification cards that
were very well made. They were two sided and had pictures of each fish with useful identification
facts. We are suggesting that we order a large number of these (2,000?) for the 2013 Task Force
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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season. They would save us time and money creating and printing our own cards, and the WDFW
card looks very professional.
Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group: Mid-Columbia sponsored the BTTF in 2012, administered
the project funding, and supervised the crew. MCFEG also provided the communication lines that the
Task Force needed to be organized all summer -- office space, a laptop and a cell phone, all of which
made communication between the Task Force and biologists in the Basin successful. Thank you!
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Community Salmon
Fund provided funding for the Task Force during the 2011 and 2012 years.
U.S. Forest Service: The Forest Service was very generous and loaned the Bull Trout Task Force a
vehicle and gas card for the 2012 bull trout season. We are constantly traveling both to the Upper
Yakima and Naches to do outreach and redd surveys and our efforts would’ve not been successful
without the vital partnership of the Forest Service.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: We worked with WDFW (Eric Anderson) on all 27 of the
bull trout redd surveys that we completed. Eric taught us how to conduct a redd survey and how to
report the data. He also worked with our schedule when scheduling redd surveys and kept the surveys
very organized. Eric Anderson was a great partner for the Bull Trout Task Force. He was constantly
teaching us new information about bull trout in the Yakima Basin and was available for any questions
that we had. We feel honored that we got to work one-on-one with Eric so frequently because he is a
great learning resource.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: We worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Clear Creek
Passage Assessment on the North Fork Tieton River. This was a great opportunity for the Task Force to
be part in a biological assessment and work with biologists to determine the migration of bull trout
after they spawn in the North Fork Tieton. Jeff Thomas from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did a
great job coordinating with WDFW while scheduling shifts for the Bull Trout Task Force. It was a great
learning experience to be part of the PIT tagging operation and we hope the Bull Trout Task Force can
participate again in the coming years of the study. The USFWS also loaned the BTTF snorkel gear to use
for the summer. This was VERY helpful and we are very appreciative of their generosity.
Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board: The Yakima YBFWRB was great in giving the Task Force
direction to be successful for the season. They also let us use their office and supplies whenever
Washington Conservation Corps: Ashton and Cassandra were both WCC Individual Placement interns
for the summer of 2012.
Thank you to all of the great partners who helped make the 2012 Bull Trout Task Force successful!
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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Appendix A
The above map shows the locations of rock dams removed on the Cle Elum River.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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The above map shows the locations of rock dams removed on Indian Creek.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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The above map shows the locations of rock dams removed in the Teanaway.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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The above map shows the location of the rock dam removed on the North Fork Tieton.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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Appendix B
Angler Script: “ Hello, (introduce ourselves) and we work for Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement
Group, a non-profit organization in Ellensburg. We are out today talking to people about the bull trout,
a threatened species of fish that lives here in the lake. Are you familiar with bull trout and how to
identify them? Bull trout are often mistaken for a brook trout and vise-versa, and the bull trout can be
identified be a completely clear dorsal fin (show picture) and a brook trout has black worm-like
marking on the dorsal fin. If a bull trout is incidentally caught it needs to be released unharmed under
all circumstances” We then answer any questions they may have and give them a bull trout
identification card to keep in their tackle box.
BTTF 5th grade lesson plan:
Introduction (usually 5 minutes)
-Start off with who we work for, what we do (native fish habitat
enhancement and restoration). We usually introduce ourselves and say
“We work for Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group. Can anyone
guess what we do?” and get the fish conversation started by talking about
what we do.
- “we’re here to tell you about a really cool fish called the bull
We get the kids excited about the bull trout by talking about how
cool they are and that they can grow to be very large (the state record was
22 lbs 8 oz in WA!) and they are the top predator fish in many streams. We
tell them bull trout will eat just about anything and biologists have
observed them eating birds (dipper) and even a pack rat!
Biology (usually 10 minutes)
- Ask the kids “What do fish need to survive, as part of a healthy
ecosystem?” and write answers on the board as we call on them to
answer. If there is enough board space we like to leave the answers on the
board and refer back to them during the presentation.
cold, clean water
spawning gravel
low flow
low predation
food sources
Riparian Area
Most classes have been learning about salmon so we then relate salmon to
bull trout before going into general bull trout info:
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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“ Bull trout are like Salmon – they are born and grow in a stream, then
migrate to a larger body of water, then return to the stream to spawn!”
Then we go into general bull trout facts:
-“Bull Trout are a type of Char, a subgroup of the salmon family
characterized by an olive green body with yellow and pink spots.
-“They are a coldwater fish.” (We usually ask the kids if they know
what that means). We explain that the bull trout love coldwater and are
usually found in higher elevation lakes and streams.
-After that we say:
“bull trout usually grow up to 4 pounds in streams and 20 lbs or
more in lakes- do you have any idea why they would get bigger if they
lived in a lake?”
Then we explain that there is more habitat and more food available
in a lake so they can get a lot bigger than if they live in a small stream.
- “They like to eat insects and other small fish including sculpin,
whitefish and salmon. Bull trout are very aggressive fish and will usually
eat any fish that is smaller than them in size and sometimes adult bull
trout will even eat juvenile bull trout. “
-“There are four types of life histories the bull trout display. Do you
know what a life history is?” (Let them guess) “Life history is the changes
that an organism goes through throughout its life. We usually put the
following terms on the board as we talk about them:
-adfluvial – grow up in lakes and migrate to streams to spawn
-fluvial – grow up in rivers and migrate to tributaries to spawn
-resident - grow up and spawn in the same place and do not
-anadromous – grow up in the ocean and migrate to rivers to
Bull Trout Life Cycle (usually 8-10 minutes)
Next we go over the bull trout life cycle before doing a bull trout life cycle
beading activity that reinforces the cycle and quizzes them to see if they
know it. For this section pointing at the life cycle poster and showing the
different stages of life really help.
-“At 4-7 yrs old, mature adult Bull Trout are ready to spawn. Do
you know what season the bull trout like to spawn? In the fall! In
September and October, bull trout head upstream to spawn.”
-“What do they do once they get upstream to get ready for
spawning?” Answer: The fish begin to dig a redd with their tails just like
salmon. Then the females lay their eggs and the males come along and
fertilize the eggs. After that the female covers her eggs with gravel to hide
them from predators.
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(We usually draw a picture of a redd on the board and talk about
eggs needing clean spawning gravel.)
-“The eggs incubate for 4-5 months and then hatch. A young fish
called an alevin emerges and still has the yolk sac attached to its belly. The
fish feeds off this yolk sack until it becomes a fry – about 1 inch in length!”
-“After the fish has absorbed the yolk sac and is 1 inch length, it is
called a fry! Fry feed on insects until they become bigger and are
considered juvenile fish. Juveniles can remain in their natal stream until 4
yrs old before migrating to a larger body of water to get more food. Once
they have migrated they are old enough to spawn and the life cycle begins
Fun fact: “What happens to salmon after they spawn? Yes, they die
and their nutrients are returned to the stream. Did you know that bull
trout can spawn more than once?”
-“Now that we have gone over the life cycle let’s do a life cycle
beading activity to test your knowledge!”
Beading (about 10 minutes)
“So now that we learned all about the bull trout life cycle - look at the beads in your cup. Each bead
represents a different stage in the life cycle. What happens first in the life cycle? What bead do you
think represents this?”
We put on one bead at a time in order of the life cycle (listed below). When we put on each bead
we talk about why it represents what it does.
1. Red=Redd
2. Orange=Eggs
3. Black=Spawning gravel
4. Clear=Spawning water (stream)
5. Green/Yellow=Adult bull trout body color
6. Blue=Large body of water
7. Pink=Spawning color
Now that all of the beads are on their pipe cleaner we tell them they can either create a fish out of the
pipe cleaner or make a bracelet. We usually show what the fish looks like. After they’ve made a bracelet
or fish, we then go over again what each bead represents, usually letting the class say all at one time
what the bead means.
Threats (about 10 minutes)
“Now that we know all about bull trout, did you know that they are
listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act?” Do you know
what that means? Why do you think this is, what could be hurting their
We usually have the kids talk in their group about what could be
harming bull trout and other fish and their habitat.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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Water Quality
Habitat Loss
Lack of Food
Passage barriers (rec dams, irrigation dams)
Brook Trout
Loss of Riparian Buffer
We show a mason jar full of really dirty water and say:
“Do you think fish like dirty water? Why is it harmful to them?
Dirty water = sight, smell, clogs gills, smother eggs, destroy insect larva.
What can you do to help? (about 5 minutes)
We ask the kids “What you can do to help?” – Sometimes we ask them to
brainstorm their ideas in a group and then each table shares with the
-Take down recreation dams when you see them
-Pick up garbage and not pollute the streams
-Stay on the trail when you’re hiking near a stream
-Do not cut trees or vegetation near a stream and leave natural wood and
vegetation in the water
-Teach other people (your family and friends!) about bull trout
-Release a bull trout if caught
Questions and Career (until time is up)
Kids will have questions about bull trout and salmon so we start with
answering their questions. Then most classes have started talking about
careers and kids are interested in what we do to help bull trout and other
fun work projects that we do. We usually talk about how we got into our
jobs and what schooling we’ve done.
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Mid-Columbia Fisheries
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