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Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife asks anglers for help tracking trout

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(The Center Square) – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking anglers for their assistance in tackling a trout tracking problem for the coming year.

Announced Thursday in a news release, the WDFW is “conducting a study to better understand the pattern of movements as sea-run cutthroat trout in Willapa Bay transition from freshwater to marine water.”

“The study this summer aims to identify inter-habitat (freshwater, estuarine, and nearshore) movements, and the role temperature, salinity, tide, and barriers (dams and culverts) play in determining movement patterns,” said Nick Vanbuskirk, a fish biologist working on the project for WDFW. “Regional biologists will also be exploring fine scale movement of fish in the nearshore marine environments with a focus on improving fishing opportunity.”

Part of the program involves capturing adult sea-run cutthroat trout and inserting an acoustic tag in their belly.

This tag, in combination with hydrophones, can be used to create an accurate representation of fish movements across time. If more than one hydrophone is used, for instance in areas where high accuracy is required like dams or fish ladders, three dimensional plots can even be created.

WDFW is asking any anglers who catch these fish to check for stitches on the belly to determine if a fish has been tagged, and immediately release it if a tracking tag is found.

Around 200 adult trout will be captured, tagged, stitched up, and released in Washington and British Columbia. The program will run from now until spring of 2024.

The purpose of the study is to resolve conflicting results from previous studies on the species.

A recent study in the Hood Canal suggested migration patterns of the trout are restricted to the fjord they grew up in, while others in the southern Puget Sound and the Columbia River have shown more distant migration patterns.

“These conflicting results and an absence of information for the Washington coast are important for management of this native salmonid,” said the news release accompanying the announcement.

More information can be found on the WDFW website.

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