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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fish Recovery Shock Treatment

This is the second part of my post on the Calapooia river restoration and a visit to Thompson's Mills state historic site. 

The mill was built in 1858 and in order to power it, water was diverted from the original course of the Calapooia river via a series of dams and ditches to create a mill race.  Thompson's Mills began as a grist mill then was converted to a hydro plant in the seventies.  
Here is the master plan for the area that provides even more history:

The day that we visited the parks department was just about to open the site to the public. One of the very last items to be completed was the redesign of the millrace.  The plan was to erect a dam and essentially create a pond that could be enlisted for demonstrations.  They used an inflatable dam to block the stream and then pumped out the water.  

As they pumped out water, they had to recover the fish that lived there and move them upstream.  Of special consideration were the lamprey fish who spend the part of their freshwater life in Oregon's tributaries and rivers
Catching the fish unharmed can be a tricky business.  These fish & wildlife guys were shocking the fish in the remaining puddles and then gathering them in buckets.  
The "shocker" had this power pack on his back that sent electricity into this wand.  The electricity jolt is very mild so as just to stun the fish temporarily.  

Here are some of the fish that they had gathered.  They were really neat and quite colorful.  Lampreys are also called eels and are a relative of hag fish.  These guys can be parasites on salmon, but are an important game fish for Native American tribes on the river - the Columbia in particular.  The fish were placed in this plastic receptacle to measure their length before returning them to the river upstream.

Not just fish were recovered.  This really old bottle was discovered in the muddy bottom.  It will be sent to the Oregon Historical Society.

Some local waterfowl were taking advantage of the water removal too.  We couldn't see if they were eating anything in particular, but there was lots of mud to sift through.

It was great to be out tromping around and to have the opportunity to chat with both Parks and Fish&Wildlife employees and get all my questions answered.  Hopefully all this work will help restore the steelhead run.  They are hoping it will naturally occur - since there are fish in the Willamette, and will wait a few years before resorting to planting fish.  What an amazing sight that will be - seeing those gigantic trout swimming up the Calapooia and right under I-5.  It's enough to make me want to start shopping for a new steelhead rod.

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