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Steelhead/Redband Trout

In the last 35 years, adult steelhead returns have fluctuated in the Umatilla subbasin in a similar pattern to steelhead in the John Day and other systems in the region (Figure 22). Table 15 summarizes the disposition of adult steelhead returns in the Umatilla Subbasin. Endemic Umatilla steelhead are artificially supplemented using wild endemic brood stock to prevent domestication. Hatchery reared steelhead are the progeny of about 115 wild parents taken from a cross section of the run annually. Between 1986 and 1988, hatchery steelhead comprised roughly ten percent of the adult return (CTUIR and ODFW 1990). Between 1989 and 1996, the percent of the adult run comprised of hatchery fish climbed from 14% to as much as 43%, and in 1997 hatchery fish outnumbered natural fish, comprising 60% of the adult returns (Figure 23). In 1999 and 2000 hatchery fish represented 39.8 and 25.3% of the run respectively (Table 15). The hatchery fish are passed above Three-Mile Dam for harvest opportunities and to supplement natural production by spawning naturally.

Figure 22. Umatilla and John Day steelhead trends (Contor et al. 2000; Chilcote 1998)


Table 15. Umatilla Summer Steelhead Adult Return, Harvest and Escapement Disposition 1987-88 through 1999-2000 return years (Contor et al. 2000).


RUN YEAR


1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999




1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999


2000

N-STS Enumerated at TMD

2315

2104

1422

724

2247

1298

945

875

1299

1014

862

1135

2160

H-STS Enumerated at TMD

165

370

245

387

522

616

345

656

782

1463

903

751


732

All STS Enumerated at TMD

2480

2474

1667

1111

2769

1914

1290

1531

2081

2477

1765

1886

2892

N-STS Sacrificed or Mortalities at TMD

20

12

40

2

3

4

0

0

8

5

2

1

0

H-STS Sacrificed or Mortalities at TMD

5

17

143

50

112


69

51

33

73

95

70

75

42

N-STS Taken for Brood Stock

151

158

92

99

237

129

93

86

107

100

86

110

115

N-STS Spawned

62

84

53

85

172

95

79

59

63

75

68

76




H-STS Taken for Brood Stock

0

0

0

103


95

91

42

68

26

10

30

15

15

H-STS Spawned

0

0

0

42

0

3

17

22

21

3

21

4




N-STS Females Released above TMD

1436

1232







1193

875

642

602

863

689

550

716

1317

N-STS Males Released above TMD

708


702







814

290

210

187

321

220

224

308

728

N-STS Released above TMD

2144

1934

1290

623

2007

1165

852

789

1184

909

774

1024

2045

H-STS Females Released above TMD

114

216








161

266

186

274

371

666

476

425

351

H-STS Males Released above TMD

46

137







154

190

66

281

312

692

327

236

324

H-STS Released above TMD

160

353

102

234

315


456

252

555

683

1358

803

661

675

N-STS Harvested above TMD-CTUIR
















5

5

5

0

0

5

5




H-STS Harvested above TMD-CTUIR
















25

20

20

39

33

33

39




N-STS Harvested above TMD-ODF&W




















0

0

0

0

0




H-STS Harvested above TMD-ODF&W
















22

5

21

25

24

12

47




N-STS Females Available to Spawn

1436*

1232*







1193*

872

639

599

863

689

548

713



N-STS Males Available to Spawn


708*

702*







814*

288

208

185

321

220

221

306




N-STS Potentially Available to Spawn

2144*

1934*

1290*

623*

2007*

1160

847

784

1184

909

769

1019




H-STS Females Available to Spawn

114*

216*








161*

242

173

253

339

637

454

382




H-STS Males Available to Spawn

46*

137*







154*

167

54

261

280

664

305

193




H-STS Available to Spawn

160*

353*

102*

234*

315*


409

227

514

619

1301

759

575




Total Female STS Available to Spawn

1550*

1448*







1354*

1114

812

852

1202

1326

1002

1095




STS Redds Observed in Index Reaches

138

77

HW

HW

135

HW

64

74

119


138

126

218

238

Total STS Redds Observed

275

128

HW

HW

300

HW

224

126

150

149

217

270

523

Index Reaches Miles Surveyed

18.5

20

HW

HW

21.4

HW

21.4

21.4

21.4

21.4

21.4

21.4

21.4


Redds Per Mile in Index Reaches

7.5

3.9

HW

HW

6.3

HW

3.0

3.5

5.6

6.4

5.9

10.2

11.1

Total Miles Surveyed in Umatilla River

61.0

50.2

HW

HW

67.2

HW

65.8

35.0

34.4

24.6

38.0

37.2

47.6


Redds Per Mile in all Areas

4.5

2.5

HW

HW

4.5

HW

3.4

3.6

4.4

6.1

5.7

7.9

11

Notes * harvest not estimated; HW=high water; harvest estimates assumed sex ratio of 50-50; no adjustments were made for catch and release and hooking related mortalities; Index reaches are in Squaw, N.F. Meacham, Buckaroo, Camp and Boston Canyon Creeks and the S.F. Umatilla River.

Figure 23. Umatilla adult summer steelhead returns 1988-2000 (Contor et al. 2000).

Adult steelhead were also counted at Birch Creek by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from 1995 to 1999 (Table 16). The fish are collected in a fish ladder trap on a diversion dam located approximately 1/4 mile downstream of the confluence of the East and West forks of Birch Creek. An estimated 60% of the adult steelhead that pass this location jump over the diversion dam and are not counted in the trap. In 1995-1996, biologists from the Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a mark/recapture study that led to a total escapement estimate above the trap location of 358 wild and 15 hatchery fish for a total of 373. For that year, this accounted for approximately 30% of the wild fish that were counted at Three Mile Dam on the Umatilla. Mark/recapture data in other years was insufficient to make an accurate escapement estimate.

Table 16. Adult summer steelhead collected at the fish trap on Birch Creek (T. Bailey, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, personal communication, January 2001).

Run Year

Wild

Hatchery

% Hatchery

Total

1995-96

143

6

4

149

1996-97

109

6

5

115

1997-98

85

1

1

86

1998-99

73

0

0

73

A series of Natural Production Monitoring and Evaluation (NPME) studies have been, and are currently being conducted by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian. NPME survey data established the general spawning locations of summer steelhead in the Umatilla River and conducted annual surveys of a number of key index areas. Spawning occurs in the mainstem of the Umatilla River primarily from Minthorn Springs upstream (RM 65) and in the headwater tributaries; however, some spawning has been observed as far downstream as Feed Canal Diversion (RM 28). Major spawning tributaries include Birch Creek; Meacham Creek and Squaw Creek (Table 17). Hatchery reared endemic summer steelhead are frequently observed digging redds and spawning naturally during spawning surveys (Contor et al. 1998).


CTUIR annually monitors trends in species composition, abundance and rearing density of salmonids at index sites located throughout the Umatilla subbasin. During the summer low flow periods from 1993-1996, CTUIR estimated juvenile steelhead abundance in the primary rearing areas using habitat surveys that estimated suitable stream habitat areas to reach specific steelhead densities derived from extensive sampling using removal-depletion methods. Juvenile natural steelhead abundance in the primary rearing areas was approximately 725,000 during that time period (Contor et al. 1996). These estimates do not include many of the newly emerged fry or smolts that outmigrated prior to the summer sampling period. Of the total 770 miles of stream in the subbasin, 233 miles are estimated to be suitable summer rearing habitat for juvenile steelhead based on salmonid catch, water temperatures and flows (Contor et al. 1996). Surveyors found the highest numbers of juvenile steelhead/mile between RM 81.8 and RM 89.6 of the Umatilla River, and in the tributaries of Birch, Meacham and Squaw Creeks (Contor et al. 1996).
Table 17. Number of Redds Observed in Index Areas for Spawning Surveys for Umatilla Summer Steelhead (Contor et al. 1997).

River

Section

1992

1993

1994

1995


1996

#

mi.

#

mi.

#

mi.

#

mi.

#

mi.

Squaw Creek

77

6.7

10

6.7

36

6.7

45

6.7

58

6.7

Buckaroo Creek

5

3

6

3

0

3

6

3

12

3

Meacham Creek


120

18

6

15.8

40

18.2

12

3.1

n/a




NF Meacham Creek

30

5

3

3.3

11

5

14

5

30

5

Camp Creek

8

2.5

7

2.5

6

2.5

5

2.5

7

2.5

Boston Canyon Creek

0

1

6

1

3

1


0

1

9

1

NF Umatilla River

17

2.5

n/a




4

4

1

2

n/a




SF Umatilla River

15

4.2

8

4.2

8

4.2

4

3.2

n/a




Ryan Creek

3

2

n/a




3

3

n/a




n/a




Minthorn Springs

5

.2

n/a





1

.2

n/a




2

.2

Pearson Creek

1

6

3

8

31

5

8

2

11

4

East Birch Creek

4

1

11

4.5

61

7.0

31

6.5

n/a




West Birch Creek

0

3.3

3

4.5

20

6.0

n/a




n/a



Moderate to high rearing densities (20-300+ fish/100m2) of juvenile steelhead/ redband trout were observed during the summer low flow periods in most stream habitat with persistent flow and suitable water temperatures (Figure 24): steelhead rearing streams include, but are not limited to, Ryan Creek, Buck Creek, Duncan Canyon Creek, Shimmiehorn Creek, Spring Creek, North and East Forks of Meacham Creek, Butcher Creek, Thomas Creek, Moonshine Creek, Buckaroo Creek, Westgate Canyon Creek, Johnson Creek, Pearson Creek, East and West Birch Creeks, Boston Canyon Creek, Camp Creek, Mission Creek, Coonskin Creek, Owsley Creek and others (Contor et al. 1998). (Table 18)

Table 18. Highest Densities of Juvenile Steelhead in the Umatilla Subbasin (Contor et al. 1996; Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Data [E. Birch Creek] 1996).


Reach

River

Mile

Length (mi)

Suitable Miles

Steelhead/ Mile

Total Steelhead

Umatilla River

81.8-89.6

7

7

8392

58744

Meacham Creek

0-15

15

12.9

5576

71930

N.F. Umatilla River




10

9

5500

49500

Meacham Creek

15-36

21

17

4500

76500


Squaw Creek




10

8.75

4367

38211

East Birch Creek

1.5-15

13.5

13.5

4787

64627


Figure 24. Steelhead distribution, spawning and rearing areas in the Umatilla subbasin

During the late fall, winter and early spring, juvenile steelhead were observed throughout the basin, including reaches that are often intermittent during the summer. During spring and early summer, juvenile steelhead move into the higher quality habitat areas associated with headwater streams, spring areas and the upper reaches of the mainstem (Figure 25).

Figure 25. Life history of Umatilla summer steelhead; shaded ovals represent areas and times where redds are at risk from scouring and/or sedimentation during high flows; shaded rectangles represent times and areas where high water temperatures may be limiting (Contor et al. 1998)

Since the summer of 1999, additional summer rearing habitat has been available from the mouth of McKay Creek (RM 50.5) downstream to approximately Yoakum (RM 34). Cool water is released from McKay Reservoir for irrigation use during most of each summer. In the past, water released from McKay Reservoir fluctuated tremendously during early and late summer depending on irrigation needs. Water temperatures were often suitable for juvenile steelhead throughout the reach during all but one or two weeks during the summer. Beginning in 1999, flows were augmented during those times so that water temperatures remained suitable. This represents a significant increase in suitable mainstem summer rearing habitat. Monitoring in 1999 and 2000 indicates the areas were utilized by juvenile coho salmon and steelhead/redband trout during the entire summer and by juvenile fall chinook through mid July.

Butter Creek does not support steelhead because of passage barriers, but redband trout persist in the more suitable reaches and headwater tributaries. The Butter Creek population is separated from the Birch Creek and the upper Umatilla/Meacham Creek populations by more than 40 river miles with a number of permanent passage barriers as well as several reaches that are dry during much of the year. The available juvenile rearing habitat is vital because rearing has been identified as the most limited life stage due to low flows in much of the Umatilla subbasin (Evans 1984). Rearing habitat above McKay Reservoir also contains a significant amount of suitable and restorable rearing habitat currently used by redband trout. Juvenile summer steelhead outmigration begins with many juveniles leaving the headwater areas in the fall and rearing in the mid- to lower mainstem and in ephemeral tributaries and stream reaches to varying degrees (Figure 25). Outmigrants generally begin leaving the lower Umatilla River in March and continue through May with notable exceptions before and after the main migration. Based on age and growth information derived from the scales of returning adults and outmigrating juveniles, approximately 84% of the outmigrants are age 2+ and 15% are age 3+ with a very few individuals at ages 1+ and 4+. Juvenile steelhead outmigrant survival in the lower portion of the Umatilla subbasin is variable. Results from 1995 – 1999 pit tag surveys showed survival estimates for steelhead in the lower subbasin to fluctuate between 50 – 54%, and when compared to other salmonids, steelhead exhibit a relatively protracted period of outmigration (Knapp 2000 in review). Migration patterns for hatchery and natural summer steelhead were similar, but longer in duration for natural salmon than hatchery fish. Comparisons of hatchery and natural steelhead also showed that the condition of hatchery steelhead deteriorated over time and that hatchery fish were generally larger than natural fish at the smolt stage (Knapp 2000 in review).

The sport steelhead fishery in the Umatilla River has been directed toward the harvest of hatchery origin fish since the 1992-93 run year. ODFW harvest surveys estimated that sport anglers catch between 100 to 400 steelhead each year, but anglers have only kept up to about 100 steelhead per year. Non-tribal catch and harvest of summer steelhead in the Umatilla River is shown in Figure 26. Under current state regulation, all non-fin clipped steelhead are required to be released unharmed. The open season has been September 1 though April 15 since the 1992-93 run year as well. Prior to this the season was open from December 1 through March 31. The bag limit varied over the years from two fish/day – 10/year, to two fish/day – 40/year, and finally two fish/day – 20/year. The open area for the fishery is from the mouth upstream to the western boundary of the Umatilla Indian reservation upstream from the Hwy 11 Bridge in Pendleton. Tribal harvest estimates average about 40 steelhead with 5 to 10% of the harvest being wild steelhead.

Figure 26. Sport angler catch and harvest of summer steelhead for spawning years 1990 – 1999. Data for years 1990-1992 are estimates derived from returns of angler harvest cards. Data for years 1993 – 1999 are from creel census (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife data).


In addition to harvest mortality, juvenile salmonid predation by avian species, particularly gulls, was estimated to be high near the Three Mile Falls Dam (RM 3.7). Losses were attributed to water clarity, hatchery fish abundance, and low flows (Knapp 2000 in review).




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