School is in session

by Skylar Lewis Randall | Aug 07, 2018

Imagine a school, a very large school of almost 300,000. There is constant movement and play so it’s vital to keep track of all of them.

Now imagine eight adults in charge of this whole school. Keeping track seems almost impossible, right? Not for Chelan PUD’s fish counters.

The eight fish counters at Rocky Reach Dam have logged 279,000 fish just in July!

Every fish counts

The fish counters tally salmon and steelhead migrating upstream on video cameras as the fish swim up the ladder. These cams are set up at Rocky Reach and Rock Island Dams.

In 2012, the PUD built a digitized counting program so the counters can log fish on the computer. This program minimizes error and increases efficiency, said Thad Mosey, senior fish biologist.

“Fishery agencies use the data to set fish seasons and make decisions on hatchery programs,” Mosey said.  That and other reasons are why Chelan PUD counts fish.

Fisherman also benefit from the data as they can plan when they are going to haul in their next big catch.

Fish Count Priority List

  • Chinook
  • Steelhead 
  • Sockeye 
  • Coho 
  • Bull Trout 
  • Lamprey

Back from summer vacation

Here is an eye-catching number: On July 7, 18,283 fish made their way through Rock Island Dam.

The next day 15,025 fish swam up to Rocky Reach Dam!

As the fish head back from their 1 to 3-year “summer vacation” in the ocean, nothing ever seems to go swimmingly.

Predators are like bullies who love to wreak havoc.

High river flows, extreme temperatures and disease are just a few challenges that fish face on their journey back to their home stream, said Mosey.

From  guppy to graduate

“The drive to reach their natal spawning ground in spite of the many challenges is absolutely a wonder of nature.” He said.

At last, the fish make it home just in time for “graduation.” In spawning, they renew the cycle. As they hang up their “cap and gown”, an opportunity for a new class of fish awaits.

You can learn more about the daily fish counts at Rocky Reach and Rock Island Dams on the PUD website.

See it for yourself in the fish viewing windows at Rocky Reach Discovery Center.

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