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MetaData for Hood River Bull Trout Abundance, Life History, and Habitat Connectivity, 2007 Progress Reports 2007

Hood River Bull Trout Abundance, Life History, and Habitat Connectivity, 2007 Progress Reports 2007

Identification Information
Originator: Starcevich, S.J and S.E. Jacobs
Publish Date: 2008
Online Link: None
BPA Project #:
Contact Information
Agency: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Name: Cedric Cooney
Job Position: Natural Resources Data and Systems Manager
Telephone: 503-947-6094
E-Mail Address:
Abstract: Hood River bull trout are thought to exist as two independent reproductive units (USFWS 2004), known as local populations (Rieman and McIntyre 1995). The Clear Branch local population is isolated above Clear Branch Dam, which provides limited downstream fish passage during infrequent and sporadic periods of spill and no upstream passage. Bull trout in this population inhabit Laurance Lake Reservoir and tributaries upstream of Clear Branch Dam. The Hood River local population occurs in the mainstem Hood River and Middle Fork Hood River downstream of the Clear Branch Dam and a small number of adult bull trout migrate each year into the Hood River from the Columbia River (Figure 1). The status of both populations is extremely precarious. The Clear Branch population is at risk of a random extinction event due to low numbers, negative interactions with non-native smallmouth bass, isolation and limited spawning habitat (USFWS, 1998). The Hood River population also appears to be small and is threatened by passage barriers, unscreened irrigation systems, impaired water quality and periodic siltation of spawning substrate by glacial outbursts. Clear Branch bull trout spawn in Clear Branch and Pinnacle Creek. After rearing in these two natal streams for an unknown time period, most are believed to migrate downstream to Laurance Lake Reservoir. Clear Branch bull trout have been documented passing over the dam spillway during high water events (Pribyl et al. 1996) and may provide a recruitment source for the Hood River local population. Adult bull trout tagged at Powerdale Dam have been observed at Coe Branch irrigation diversion and in a trap at the base of Clear Branch dam. These fish may have been attempting to reach spawning areas located upstream of the dam. However, the success of bull trout migrating downstream via the spillway or the possibility of successfully navigating through the diversion network has never been determined. Depending on the water year, the Middle Fork Irrigation District (MFID) may not spill at all, or the timing of the spill may not coincide with the timing of downstream migration, which is currently unknown (East Fork Hood River and Middle Fork Hood River Watershed analysis). Smallmouth bass were discovered in Lake Laurance Reservoir in the 1990s. Creel surveys have shown that large adult bass are caught occasionally in the reservoir and schools of bass fry have been seen by district fish biologist (Rod French, ODFW, personal communication), suggesting that they are spawning successfully. This illegal introduction poses a potential threat to the Clear Branch bull trout population, but its magnitude is unknown because the bass population size and degree of interaction between the two species are unknown. Bull trout and smallmouth bass have significantly different temperature preferences and tolerances, with bull trout being one of the most sensitive coldwater species and bass being a warm water species. Lake Laurance, a relatively high-altitude reservoir at 890 m (2,920 feet), does not provide ideal bass habitat so these two species may have largely non-overlapping distributions or differing activity periods (Terry Shrader, ODFW warmwater fish biologist, personal communication). However, based on past reservoir temperature data (Berger et al. 2005), there are periods in the reservoir when there is potential for bull trout and bass interaction: periods when bull trout are susceptible to bass predation and when juvenile fish might compete for resources. Spawning activity of the Hood River local population has been observed in a few locations within the Middle Fork of Hood River (Figure 1). Although consistent and extensive spawning areas for this population are not known, some of the locations where juvenile rearing or potential bull trout redds have been observed include the Middle Fork Hood River and some of its tributaries: Bear Creek, Compass Creek and Coe Branch (USFWS 2004). However, Coe Branch, Compass Creek, and the Middle Fork are glacial streams with a high volume of sand and silt which may compromise spawning success. No bull trout spawning or rearing has been observed on the East and West Forks of Hood River. The Middle Fork and mainstem Hood River provide foraging, migration and overwintering habitat. Hood River bull trout are also known to migrate into the Columbia River. Two bull trout tagged at Powerdale Dam (RK 7.2 of mainstem Hood River) were recovered near Drano Lake in Washington State; and one was captured 11 kilometers downstream of the confluence of the Hood and Columbia Rivers (USFWS 2004). Every year (usually between May and July), adult bull trout, presumably migrating upstream from the Columbia River, are captured and anchor tagged at Powerdale Dam. Although some of these tagged fish have been observed upstream (one in Coe Branch and three below Clear Branch dam), the spawning destination of fluvial adults within the Hood River basin is largely unknown. Dispersing juvenile bull trout and migrating adults in this local population are threatened by flow diversions with inadequate screening and passage facilities. Several structures are suspected to impede upstream migration or entrain juvenile and adult bull trout into irrigation works (Pribyl et al. 1996, HRWG 1999). These structures include: the diversion at Clear Branch Dam (passage and screening), Coe Branch (passage and screening), and the Farmers Irrigation District diversion (screening) on the mainstem Hood River (HRWG 1999). However, little research has been conducted to assess the impacts of these structures on migrating bull trout. Beyond a general knowledge of the distribution of Hood River bull trout and the nature of anthropogenic factors that potentially restrict their life history and habitat connectivity, little is known about this recovery unit. Baseline information about adult abundance is lacking for both local populations, the potential of a source (Clear Branch) and sink (Hood River) relationship between the two local populations has not been explored, and the migratory life history of adult fish caught at Powerdale Dam is unknown. The degree to which irrigation and hydropower diversions hamper connectivity within the Hood River basin is also poorly understood. Migratory life histories have been viewed as key to species persistence (Rieman and McIntyre 1995; Dunham and Rieman 1999), and understanding movement patterns and associated habitat requirements are critical to maintaining those migratory forms (Muhlfeld and Morotz 2005; Hostettler 2005). Gaining this information is also critical to evaluating bull trout recovery in the Hood River Subbasin (Coccoli 2004). The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) initiated a study in 2006 to improve our understanding of the abundance, life history, and potential limiting factors of the bull trout in this recovery unit. This report describes findings for the first two years of the study (2006-2007). Specific study objectives for the first two years were: 1. Determine the migratory life history of Hood River bull trout and assess the potential impacts of flow diversions and two new falls on the Middle Fork Hood River (scoured by the November 2006 glacial outburst) on bull trout migrations. 2. Determine current distribution of bull trout reproduction and early rearing in historical and potential bull trout streams in the Hood River Subbasin. 3. Determine the juvenile and adult life history the Clear Branch local population and develop a statistically reliable and cost-effective protocol for monitoring the abundance of adult Clear Branch bull trout. 4. Assess the potential impact of smallmouth bass on bull trout in Laurance Lake Reservoir.


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Geographic Extent: Hood River
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