Monitoring Salmon Populations

Studies are underway to learn more about salmon and steelhead recolonization of the White Salmon River.  The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Yakama Nation have been conducting annual fall Chinook salmon and steelhead spawning surveys since the removal of Condit Dam. In 2016 and 2017, Mid-Columbia Fisheries secured grant funding to support the U.S. Geological Survey in juvenile salmonid research in the White Salmon River and its tributaries.  The study includes the use of a rotary screw trap in the lower river and fish sampling via electrofishing.

The rotary screw trap in the river between March and June each year, at river mile 1.4 near the “White Salmon ponds,” which are old, cement, fish-rearing raceways.   The site is about 0.6 miles downstream of the Powerhouse and Old Skamania Bridge, also called the Burnt Bridge. Warning signs were installed upstream of the trap location to alert boaters.

The fish trap was used by the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor migrant juvenile salmon and steelhead.

White Salmon River smolt trap location, 2017.

White Salmon Screw Trap Map


Smolt trap on the White Salmon River at river mile 1.4


This is the first study since the removal of Condit Dam that is providing information on juvenile salmon and steelhead. Several of the species being studied are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, including lower Columbia Chinook salmon, lower Columbia coho salmon, Columbia River chum salmon, Mid-Columbia steelhead, and bull trout.

More than $37 million was invested in restoring fish passage to the White Salmon River, and efforts are underway to learn about the results of that investment.  The 2017 monitoring of juvenile salmon is being funded by the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Clark-Skamania Flyfishers.  The 2016 monitoring was funded by a grant from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board.  View the final 2016 report abstract here and the full report here.  (These links will take you away from Mid-Columbia Fisheries’ website.)

The National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2013 Endangered Species Act Recovery Plan sets population abundance goals for many of the species. The Recovery Plan calls for a monitoring program as a key action toward successful implementation of the plan. Key questions, outlined in the monitoring section of the Recovery Plan are: what is the source and abundance of colonizing salmon and steelhead, what is the productivity of those fish, and are they producing viable offspring to support population persistence?

Prior to the removal of Condit Dam, scientists from the US Geological Survey studied fish populations in the White Salmon River as well as Rattlesnake and Buck Creeks. With new data, scientists will be able to begin comparing changes in fish populations in the river.

In the past, a group of scientists and managers analyzed various options for salmonid recovery / re-introduction to the White Salmon River for each migratory fish species that had been extirpated from the habitat upstream of Condit Dam. Based on the recommendations of this group, each species was allowed to naturally recolonize the river. The group recommended thorough monitoring of fish populations following dam removal, so that management agencies could evaluate the efficacy of natural recolonization.