FIFE – Coho salmon are already using the 17 newly restored acres of the Puyallup tribe’s Sha Dadx wetland project. The tribe reconnected the old oxbow lake to the lower Puyallup River two years ago through a a cooperative, interagency effort.

This summer the tribe set up a two-way fyke net to count how many fish are coming and going. “We found a lot of coho moving in and out of the reconnected wetland,” said Russ Ladley, resource protection manager for the Puyallup Tribe. This is important because unlike other salmon species that move quickly from fresh to saltwater, coho stay for a year in freshwater. ”

Coho need quality freshwater habitat, more so than other salmon like chum or pinks,” Ladley said. “It’s encouraging to see them using this habitat.”

The tribe installed the custom-built fyke net toward the end of the salmon outmigration season. “We didn’t get a complete picture of how many fish are using the habitat, but we do know they’re going in there,” Ladley said. Next year, the tribe will install the trap as early as January and monitor results throughout the salmon outmigration season.

In addition to the fyke net at Sha Dadx (pronounced shad ducks), the tribe also operates a smolt trap on the mainstem Puyallup River. The trap safely captures outmigrating young salmon so they can be counted and measured, providing important data about salmon productivity throughout a watershed.

Off-channel habitat is where juvenile fish can get out of the river’s mainstem flow to rest and feed. Small side-channels, tributary creeks and wetlands connected to the mainstem all provide important off-channel habitat. “Historically, the Puyallup wasn’t constricted by dikes and was able to carve new paths and create new off-channel habitat,” Ladley said. “Since the diking and building in the floodplain started, a lot of off-channel habitat has been lost.”

In addition to the Sha Dadx project, the tribe has also worked with others to restore two off-channel sites farther up the watershed near Orting.

“Off-channel habitat restoration is the single most important thing we can do to recover salmon in the Puyallup River watershed,” Ladley said. “Salmon evolved and have been successful in the Puyallup for centuries because the river was able to move and create habitat for them. Its great to see some good results from the project.”

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For more information, contact: Russ Ladley, resource protection manager, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 845-9225. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, eoconnell@nwifc.org