HOH RIVER — The Hoh Tribe is conducting a study to determine the genetic relationships between today’s Hoh River native steelhead and hatchery steelhead. The genetic study will reveal the extent to which a hatchery run of steelhead that shares the river has affected the genetic structure of the native steelhead
Determining the genetic origin of steelhead that stray into the Hoh from other rivers and whether they have contributed genetics to the native stock is an additional goal of the study.
“We need to know the answers to these questions to make future management decisions,” said Joe Gilbertson, fisheries biologist for the Hoh Tribe.
The genetic data needed for the study comes from a small fin clip collected from steelhead caught by treaty tribal and non-Indian sport fishermen. Later in the study, as funding allows, the tribe will also take genetic material collected from wild steelhead prior to the hatchery steelhead influence (1980) and compare it to the genetic structure of the present wild steelhead.
About 100,000 hatchery steelhead are reared in the Cook Creek National Fish Hatchery southwest of Lake Quinault and released every May near the Hoh Tribe’s reservation. The peak of the hatchery run is in December while the peak of the wild run is in March, with some overlap between runs. The preponderance of the Hoh Tribe’s steelhead fishing efforts is targeted on the hatchery stock.
While the tribe is focused on steelhead, samples of coho and chinook are also being taken when possible as part of the cooperative study with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Olympic National Park.
“We want to maintain a healthy native stock,” said Gilbertson. “Collecting this genetic information is critical to determining how past hatchery practices have influenced the current genetic composition of the Hoh River wild steelhead population.”
For more information, contact: Joe Gilbertson, Fisheries Manager, Hoh Tribe – (360) 374-6737; Debbie Preston, Coastal Information Officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360 374-5501