Tucannon Steelhead Management                       2/25/13


1.    Conserve/ Restore the natural origin (wild) population – overriding priority (as per WDFW Commission & agency policies, Governor’s Salmon Recovery Strategy (1999), local Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery plan (SRSRP) & ESA permits, L. Snake R. Comp. Plan (LSRCP),   & fishery co-managers goals)

 2.    Maintain steelhead fisheries

  • Meet mitigation goals/maintain social/cultural/economic benefits  (WDFW Policy, LSRCP agreement, fishery co-manager goals, SRSRP)

3.    Tucannon Steelhead Population Goals

  • ·     Minimum average annual overall goals are:
    •  1,000 wild steelhead for ESA recovery (SRSRP & National Marine Fisheries Service= NMFS)
    •  875 hatchery steelhead for mitigation/harvest (LSRCP & ESA permit Hatchery Plan, SRSRP)
  • ·     Critical level of ~ 280-295 wild needed to allow steelhead fishing (ESA permit for fisheries).


1.  Bypass of Tucannon River:   50% of Tucannon bound steelhead are NOT entering the Tucannon R. and are crossing L. Granite Dam.  These fish don’t contribute to conservation or fishery goals in the Tucannon River.  As long as bypass continues at this rate, full achievement of any of the management goals is unlikely.

2.  Fishery Permit Requirements

  • A minimum average of 280-295 returning WILD steelhead are required to meet the critical level set by the ESA fishery permit (28-45 minimum needed for hatchery broodstock)
  • If critical threshold is not met, the ESA fishery permit agreement may require closure of the steelhead fishery, regardless of the # of clipped hatchery steelhead available.

3. Wild Steelhead Prediction & Monitoring

  •  A distinct Tucannon wild steelhead population is confirmed by genetic studies & formally designated by a multi-agency technical review team (ICTRT), NMFS, WDFW, & co-managers
  • Under ESA & WDFW policy, wild Tucannon steelhead must be conserved & monitored 
  • WDFW now uses PIT tag returns/detections at Columbia and Snake River dams & in the Tucannon R to estimate wild adult returns from smolt production.
  •  Current data do not indicate that the average return to the Tucannon R is meeting the critical threshold level.  The most recent 5-year average WILD return is 176 (updated) steelhead to the Tucannon River (not including other Snake R tributaries).
  •  Past monitoring does not account for returns in Snake R tributaries (e.g. Penawawa & Deadman Creeks) that are considered part of the Tucannon population
    • WDFW is now using traps to estimate the size of sub-populations.
  • WDFW is planning a new genetic study in 2013 to check Snake R tributary steelhead     sub-populations and their relation to Tucannon steelhead.

4.  Hatchery changed to using wild (endemic) broodstock (2010 release);

  • Use of Lyons Ferry Hatchery (LFH) stock on the Tucannon is no longer justifiable or compatible with numerous policies and science-based assessments (from two outside science reviews of LFH steelhead program, the federal Hydro-system Biological Opinion, WDFW policy for hatchery/fishery reform, the WDFW Statewide Steelhead Mgmt Plan, & WDFW 21st Century Salmon implementation as reported to the legislature, US v OR & Columbia R Mgmt Plan; + WDFW genetic study).
  • WDFW was compelled to change to the use of wild broodstock in the hatchery or terminate the Tucannon R steelhead hatchery program & fishery.
  •  No adipose clipped (hatchery) steelhead adults are destined for the Tucannon in 2013-14 due to the shift from LFH stock to wild stock & insufficient hatchery production of wild Tucannon stock (because of broodstock mining concerns, a marking agreement, & funding/space limitations).   
  • Currently, inadequate space is available at LFH to rear the full 150k program.  Broodstock availability in 2013 may be inadequate & funding for LFH modifications to provide more space has been deferred (BPA funding cuts) – alternate funding is being sought.
  •  New marking agreement under US v OR & HGMP – WDFW can’t adipose clip hatchery smolts unless hatchery production is expected to reach at least 76k.  At all production levels 50k would remain unmarked for conservation purposes, plus up to 100k marked.
  •  The recent change from the LFH stock to Wallowa stock for use outside the Tucannon R allows grouping at LFH & provides space for up to 100k Tucannon wild stock in 2013.

Future Actions

  1. Compile & update monitoring data for wild Tucannon steelhead & 2012 fishery (as required by ESA fishery permit) & prepare recommendation for the fall 2013-14 fishery.
  2. Hold public meeting in Dayton in late spring or early summer to discuss recommendation.
  3. Present the data compilation and recommendation to NMFS in summer 2013 & implement resultant fishery actions by Sept. 1, 2013.
  4. Continue to improve wild steelhead return monitoring & prediction capabilities.  Expand the hatchery production & marking for future Tucannon steelhead fisheries.

To view the presentation provided the SRSRB, go to Tucannon River Steelhead Management Presentation to SRSRB (Feb 2013)