Friday, September 24, 2010

Workin' on Our Night Moves

Haystack Rock in Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City at Sunset
Wow! Welcome back! I have been super busy, and without easy access to the internet, I have become a ghost in the blog world!

So we are a month into this Oregon adventure. We have had our hands on over 100 chinook, worked into the wee hours of the morning, dealt with seals, beavers, muskrats, and fishermen (I haven't figured out which mammal frightens me more). But, the job is awesome! A "typical" (as typical as you can get in field work) night starts at 6:00pm where we meet at the Hebo Fish Hatchery to mend nets until dark. In the duration of an evening, some fish make it very difficult for us to get them out of the net without cutting the net. Every time we cut the net, we have a hole to mend the next day. We are getting better at not cutting, but we still have a lot of mending to do before we start netting for the night. As soon as we can't take anymore mending or it gets to dark to see we pack up and head to the river. We have two locations that we fish (set the nets), Hanneman's dock and the Mouth of Three Rivers. Hanneman's is about 6 river miles from the mouth of the Nestucca River, so it is tidally influenced. The Mouth of Three Rivers is the first tributary off of the Nestucca about 12 river miles from the mouth. We fish Hanneman's when the tide isn't ripping too hard, and we fish Three Rivers when the current from Three Rivers into the Nestucca isn't ripping too hard. It is a game of strategy against the current or the tide. The general concept is that we set an entanglement net with a buoy line and a lead line and anchor it. One person keeps a hand on the net and we wait for a fish to hit. The hit ranges from a tiny little "Bump Bump Bump" to a giant splash and thrash. When a fish hits  we go directly to it either via oars or motor (if Mike is in charge of transportation it's the oars, if it's me it's the motor... I am terrible on the oars haha). Two people on the bow get the fish out and use a dip net to transport the fish from the net to the livewell. Then we take length (mm), sex (M,F, or Jack), species (only take data of chinook, but we have caught coho salmon, pink salmon, steelhead, and suckers) determine if wild or hatchery (adipose fin clip indicates hatchery), take scales (3 from each side), and mark the operculum with a paper hole punch. After the fish is worked up we release it in an upstream holding pool and head back to check the net.
Crew Leader Mike and myself working up a chinook at Hanneman's hole. 

And it goes on from there until about 3am when we head home. Our biggest fish we have caught was 1052mm (41.42 inches to you non-metric folk) wild chinook male. Our smallest has been a ~400mm (15.75 in) hatchery chinook jack (immature male).

Two nights ago we had our first seal incident! It was the first night that our crew leader took the night off and put me in charge, talk about nerve racking! We went to go release a fish and by the time we got back to the net we had another fish in... then we hear PSsssssHH the sound of a mammal blow hole. Angela (crew member) shouts, "CREATURE CREATURE CREATURE!" and we shined the spotlight and there was a very large, very hungry, very angry seal. We quickly pulled the net out of the water, got the fish in the livewell and kept shining and yelling at the seal. He followed us all the way to the release site, so we went further upstream and we lost him. The fish was happy, healthy, not seal food, and the crew was shaken up, but no injuries or errors (we rock). So we survived the first of probably many seal attacks. Since we are so close to the ocean, the seals chase the fish upriver which makes netting a little nerve racking.

Andrew has started his job, he has been doing a few floats on his basin, learning the rivers before he has to do the spawning surveys in a few weeks.

More pictures to come hopefully!

much love, leave comments so I know you are out there!!!!



  1. Loved reading this! You go girl - I am very impressed!! XOXO

  2. I have to make a correction due to recent developments. While talking over the seal debacle with my crew leader, we came to the conclusion that the mammal was not a harbor seal (max length 4ft, white/gray mottled color) but in fact a California Sea Lion (approx length 6ft and very aggressive)!!!!