Thursday, August 27, 2009

MOE Skeena Steelhead Update to Aug22nd

Here is the Min of Environment Skeena Steelhead Update to Aug.22nd.

Information courtesy of Min of Environment, Smithers

Please find, attached, the Skeena Update to August 22nd, 2009. This file contains the Tyee Test Fishery generated Skeena River summer steelhead index to August 22nd, including daily, cumulative and escapement estimate figures in addition to a summary table showing cumulative index data since 2000, overall and decadal averages, et cetera.

Commercial fishery activity in the Skeena River approach waters to date is attached, entitled: Skeena Commercial Openings 2009. A pink salmon directed seine fishery yesterday in Area 4 was the seventh seine fishery there this season – steelhead and all other species of salmon are to be released. Area 4 gillnet effort in 2009 has consisted of an 8” mesh, chinook directed gillnet fishery, on June 12, 13 and 19. The pink and coho salmon directed seine fishery on August 23rd was the 15th seine opening in Area 3 this season; the last gillnet fishery, on July 21st, was the 10th of the season in Area 3. Effort in the recent seine fisheries has been minimal, with only 4 vessels fishing in Areas 3 and 4 on August 19th.

The upper Sustut enumeration weir commenced fishing on July 31st. Recent escapements (2005 – 2008) have been considerably below desired levels (see attached: Sustut Fence Figures). Sixty one steelhead have been observed to August 23rd – the average for this date is 73 (range 14 (2007) to 184 (2004)). NB: The upper Sustut River steelhead are a genetically distinct population and not to be confused with the lower Sustut (Bear River and downstream) population.

A pilot, steelhead sonic tagging project was initiated this month; throughout the summer/fall, 65 tags will be placed on steelhead captured in the Moricetown Canyon dipnet and beach seine fisheries – the objective is to assess drop-back in order to calibrate the Moricetown Canyon mark-recapture derived steelhead abundance estimate. If you do recover a steelhead with a sonic transmitter attached to the base of the dorsal fin (see attached photo: Sonic Tag), please do not handle the transmitter but report the capture location, fish and tag condition via e-mail ( or telephone (250.847.7286). Approximately thirty sonic tags have been applied to date.

Summary Info:

The Tyee steelhead index to August 22nd is 113 - for comparison: lowest on record: 24 (1957); mean all years: 82; highest on record: 218 (1998)
The in-season Skeena River sockeye escapement estimate to August 22nd is approximately 859 000 - the pre-season forecast of 2.1 million has been downgraded, as we are now close to the end of this year’s sockeye migration to the Skeena River at Tyee; the year end prediction is currently less than one million
From the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority: To August 23rd, 1279 sockeye have passed through the Kitwanga River weir (range to this date in past years: 138 – 3377)
· The first steelhead was captured in the Moricetown Canyon mark-recapture fishery on the 24th of July - approximately 582 steelhead have been captured at the beach seine and 621 steelhead at the dipnet fishery since that time

· 266 chinook, 298 sockeye, 24 coho and 61 steelhead have been counted to date at the upper Sustut River Weir; the 50% migration date is approximately September 4th

Please contact me with questions/comments.

All the best.

Mark Beere

Senior Fisheries Biologist

Skeena Region

NB: The regular caveat applies: The Tyee Test Fishery is a sockeye salmon test fishery; it is only calibrated for sockeye (via Babine River Weir counts). As such, Tyee catches are not standardized and therefore, comparing data between years or even individual days or gillnet sets is not valid in the strictest scientific sense. That said, the DFO use data from all salmon species for management, as we do for steelhead and the Skeena Independent Science Review Panel reported that the Tyee Test Fishery is the critical information gathering point for in-season management and for assessing abundance trends for steelhead. The fishery has operated in the same manner since 1956: a conventional gillnet vessel makes a 60 minute set with 200 fathoms (1200 feet) of net on every slack tide that occurs during daylight from May/early June to late August/early September.

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