Pink Salmon Benefit Bull Trout and Steelhead

BUCKLEY – A record number of adult bull trout and juvenile steelhead migrated through the Puyallup River watershed this year, boosted by nutrients from a massive run of pink salmon two years ago.

“There was simply more food in the system in the last couple of years because decaying pink salmon carcasses fed practically every sort of organism in the river,” said Russ Ladley, resource protection manager for the Puyallup Tribe. “This shows that salmon restoration doesn’t just benefit one species, because all of the species in the river are interconnected.”

The tribe counted more than 100 bull trout – the entire run – at a trap on the White River, a tributary to the Puyallup, where fish are collected before being trucked over Mud Mountain Dam. While still a small return, it was more than double the previous record return in 2003.

More than 400 wild juvenile steelhead were captured by the tribe from an out-migrating smolt trap on the lower Puyallup River. That’s the second highest count since the tribe began counting in 2000 and four times higher than the three-year average.

“This year’s pink run is also looking pretty big, so hopefully we’ll see similar benefits down the road,” Ladley said.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the entire bull trout run is only about 100 fish,” Ladley said. “This is an incredibly small run, but its important to note the up-tick this year. I also wouldn’t say this is the largest bull trout run ever, just the largest since we’ve been counting in the last few decades.”

Bull trout and steelhead in the Puyallup River watershed, along with chinook salmon, are listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species Act.

Counting bull trout and steelhead is part of a yearly effort by the tribe to track fish populations in the Puyallup River watershed. The tribe’s most recent yearly report on salmon, trout and char populations can be found at:


For more information, contact: Russ Ladley, resource protection manager, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 845-9225.