Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe transfers fish into new net pens

Juvenile coho salmon transferred into Port Gamble Bay this winter are settling into a brand new net pen to rear until they are released this spring.

After the 25-year-old net pen structure was severely damaged during several winter storms in 2012, the tribe decided to replace both the structure and nets.

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A juvenile coho salmon makes its way through a pipe system to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s net pens in Port Gamble Bay. See more photos by clicking the photo.

“The whole thing needed to be replaced badly,” said Tim Seachord, the tribe’s hatchery manager. “One of the nets was irreparable and one of the walkways was unsafe for my staff.”

“These nets protect the fish during major storms and tides while they grow to release size, so the structure is pretty beefy to withstand the wind, waves and tides.”

The new structure is the same size as the original, 120-square-feet, and contains four 50-square-foot nets. Each net can hold up to 250,000 juvenile fish. The salmon are held in the pen from Feburary through May as their bodies transition from fresh to salt water conditions.

The tribe receives more than 400,000 juvenile coho from the state’s George Adams Hatchery in Shelton every winter. The coho will be reared in the pens until May, when they will be released.

Coho spend the first 18 months of life in fresh water, then spend the next 18 months at sea before returning to fresh water again as adults to spawn.

The tribe’s coho net pen program has been producing salmon since its first release of smolts in 1981. The fish are harvested by both tribal and non-tribal fishermen. Most of the fish have a tiny coded-wire tag in their snout to identify their origin and date of release, providing fisheries managers with important migration, survival and other data needed for fisheries management.

For more information, Paul McCollum, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe natural resources director, at (360) 297-6288 or [email protected]; Abby Welch, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe finfish management biologist, at (360) 297-6295 or [email protected]; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or [email protected].