tangle-net_14The Upper Skagit Tribe is exploring the possibility of using a tangle net to learn more about Skagit River steelhead.

Last year, the tribe collected scales to determine the age and life history of 75 steelhead harvested over a two-week period during its ceremonial and subsistence fishery. But from a scientific standpoint, researchers need more than 75 samples and a longer sample period to learn about the steelhead run. This year, tribal natural resources staff are investigating whether a tangle net could enable them to sample a greater number of fish without increasing the impact to the run.

Tangle nets are similar to gillnets, but have a smaller mesh size, allowing fish to be released.

“Tangle nets have been demonstrated to allow steelhead to be released with limited mortality,” said Bob McClure, fisheries biologist for the Upper Skagit Tribe.

“The purpose of this year’s exploratory fishery is to collect additional biological and abundance data for management purposes,” McClure said. “If the tangle net fishery is successful, we could eventually use this method to gather data about winter steelhead outside of the traditional commercial fishery.”

Visual Implant tag

During future fisheries, fishermen who harvest steelhead tagged with fluorescent orange Visual Implant tags are asked to contact McClure at 360-854-7058 with the tag and catch information.

In addition to taking scale samples, tribal natural resources staff measure and mark each steelhead with a small reflective orange tag behind its right eye. The tag  will provide additional information if the fish is recaptured or harvested later during this fishery. It also allows for long-term identification beyond the duration of the test fishery.

For more information, contact: Bob McClure, fisheries biologist, Upper Skagit Tribe, 360-854-7058 or BobM@upperskagit.com; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, NWIFC, 360-424-8226 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org.