Ecosystem restoration – Are bull trout spreading out in the upper Clackamas?

Contact: Patrick Barry (Patrick.M.Barry@state.or.us)

As part of the monitoring effort associated with the reintroduction of bull trout into the Clackamas Basin, Native Fish Investigations staff have been following the behavior of adult bull trout during the spawning period (Aug-Oct) during the past three years. During the first two years of the reintroduction effort, spawning fish tended to congregate in and around one of the tributaries to the Clackamas, with the rest of the basin largely unoccupied. This year however, staff report that adult bull trout appear to be spreading out more widely in the basin, potentially a sign that new areas will be colonized.

Adult bull trout (Approx. 650 mm TL) recently photographed by Brad Malone swimming in the upper Clackamas near Lemiti Creek. This fish was translocated from the Metolius River July 17, 2011 and is thought to be in its’ second or third spawning cycle.

Adult bull trout (Approx. 650 mm TL) recently photographed by Brad Malone swimming in the upper Clackamas near Lemiti Creek. This fish was translocated from the Metolius River July 17, 2011 and is thought to be in its’ second or third spawning cycle.

To date, adult fish have been tracked into the Oak Grove fork, Collawash River, and far upstream (up to the impassible barrier just downstream of the confluence with Lemiti Creek). Interestingly, some fish (including the one pictured) that were thought to have spawned previously in the primary spawning tributary now appear to also be looking elsewhere.  Such widespread movement during the spawning season is an encouraging sign that bull trout are on the road to recovery in the Clackamas basin.

“Bull trout were historically abundant and widely distributed in the Willamette Basin, including the Clackamas River.  They were a historical component of the river’s native fish assemblage that evolved over thousands of years. Currently, bull trout are extirpated from the Clackamas River Subbasin; there have been no documented sightings of bull trout in the Clackamas River since 1963. The bull trout was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998.  Efforts to recover the species are underway, including restoring the species to areas from which it has been lost.” http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/species/data/bulltrout/reintroductionproject.asp

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