New Techniques Mean More Chinook On The Puyallup River

PUYALLUP (March 8, 2007) – The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is using two cutting-edge techniques at their new Clarks Creek hatchery to boost fisheries on abundant hatchery chinook in the lower Puyallup River watershed while protecting a weak wild chinook run.

Tribal and state co-managers have reduced fisheries on abundant hatchery chinook to protect the wild fish. “The tribe’s new hatchery at Clarks Creek will produce more chinook returning to the lower river, away from where returning wild chinook congregate in the upper watershed, so both tribal and non-tribal fishermen should have better chinook fisheries in the upcoming year,” said Chris Phinney, harvest management biologist for the Puyallup Tribe. Last year, the tribe had no directed fishery on chinook.

A new automated coded wire tagging trailer will insert tiny metals tags into the snouts of the young fish, allowing biologists to better understand the life history of the fish. Also, an innovative type of rearing pond that mimics natural habitat conditions will better prepare the baby chinook for life outside the hatchery.

Once the finger-long chinook are loaded into the tagging trailer, they are automatically tagged, counted, and whisked back to a rearing pond. Codes on the millimeter-long tags indicate where and when the salmon were released. To mark the tagged fish their small fleshy adipose fin on their back is clipped so hatchery fish can be identified in fisheries. After the tagged salmon are caught in fisheries or found on the spawning grounds, the tags are recovered and biologists can track their survival rates, their migration and abundance.

Nearer to nature rearing ponds re-create salmon habitat in the hatchery by adding tree root wads and gravel that help young chinook to survive better in the wild. “Chinook born in the wild develop instincts that help them avoid predators and find food,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, this isn’t something we see a lot of in hatchery fish raised in traditional, almost featureless, cement ponds. The more these fish learn to survive in the wild, the more hatchery fish that will return to the river in a few years.”

Chinook fisheries on the Puyallup River will likely be sharply limited again this year, but with more fish being produced each year at the Clarks Creek hatchery, future fisheries will likely improve. This spring, the tribe will release about 650,000 chinook, and in a few years, nearly 1 million will be released. “If there are more hatchery fish to catch in the lower river we can expand fisheries while protecting wild salmon,” said Phinney. “Getting wild chinook into the upper watershed to spawn is a priority for the tribal community and future generations.”

“We can make better management decisions when we know more about their migration and behavior,” said Blake Smith, hatchery biologist for the tribe. “Better decisions mean more fish.”


For more information, contact: Blake Smith, Enhancement Chief, Puyallup Tribe of Indians,. Chris Phinney, harvest management biologist, Puyallup Tribe of Indians,. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC,, [email protected]