Mid-Columbia River Fishery Resource Office
Pacific Region


Hatchery Evaluation

Chinook Salmon and Steelhead

Bull Trout



Icicle Creek


Aquatic Nuisance Species

Yakima Program

Hatchery Evaluation

biosampling salmon Photo: John and Karen Hollingsworth USFWS Biosampling Salmon Photo: USFWS biosampling salmon Photo: USFWS


MCRFRO staff conducts hatchery evaluations at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (NFH) complex hatcheries including Entiat NFH and Winthrop NFH. Leavenworth NFH rears Carson stock spring Chinook salmon, and good adult returns usually provide for a fishery on Icicle Creek. Entiat NFH switched to rearing coho salmon in 2007, previously they had reared Carson stock spring Chinook salmon. Winthrop NFH rears a local Methow River stock of spring Chinook salmon, native steelhead, and coho salmon.

Please check out the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fishing web page for information about fishing opportunities.

How does MCRFRO measure performance of hatchery fish?

  • Hatchery rearing strategies are evaluated.
  • Juvenile and adult migration time, survival, and contribution to fisheries are evaluated using PIT and coded wire tags.
  • Survival to adult of salmon from each release year is determined by aging the returning adults using tags, scales, and fish lengths.
  • Harvest numbers in sport, tribal, and commercial fisheries are tracked.
  • Straying of hatchery fish into wild fish spawning areas is monitored.

How does MCRFRO use evaluations to improve survival and contributions of hatchery fish?

  • Hatchery Genetic Management Plan development
  • Identification of appropriate species or stock to rear at each hatchery
  • Fish rearing densities are optimized to improve fish health and adult returns
  • Innovation of fish rearing practices
  • Targeted size and time of release of juvenile Chinook salmon
  • Coordination of release dates for the juvenile fish from the hatcheries with Columbia River dam managers
  • Predictions of return year numbers are made based on returns of different broodyears in preceding years and other factors to help set fishing seasons.

How does MCRFRO work to monitor and reduce impacts of the hatchery operations and hatchery fish to wild fish:

  • Hatchery Genetic Management Plan implementation
  • Use of selected fish species and stock for each watershed.
  • Hatchery water management to reduce diversion impacts, sediment load of incoming water by using settling basins, nutrient output by using abatement ponds, and use of well water at times of the year .
  • Compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
  • Fish health monitoring and management at the hatcheries led by the USFWS Olympia Fish Health Center.
  • Comparisons of hatchery and wild fish population characteristics to help develop management strategies to reduce impacts on the wild populations.
  • Monitoring of genetics of wild and hatchery fish to evaluate differences and similarities.
  • Wild fish health monitoring of fish collected upstream and downstream of Leavenworth and Entiat NFHs for comparison to hatchery fish and as part of the National Wild Fish Health Survey

Data Reporting
Sharing of data on salmon in the Columbia River basin is critical for many management agencies. In addition to preparing annual reports on hatchery evaluation, MCRFRO provides data on hatchery fish to:

Hatchery Teams
MCRFRO participates in several integrated teams formed to guide management of the federal hatcheries.

  • Hatchery Review Team: Staff participates on this interagency team that evaluates management of hatcheries throughout the northwest and develops Hatchery Management and Genetic Broodstock Management Plans for each Pacific Region NFH.
  • Hatchery Evaluation Teams: Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop NFHs each have a team consisting of hatchery managers, fisheries biologists, and fish health biologists to review hatchery performance and guide management.
  • Hatchery Sub Committee for the PUDs Habitat Conservation Plan:

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Chinook Salmon and Steelhead

MCRFRO has an interest in the status and management of Endangered Species Act listed spring Chinook salmon and steelhead and other native salmon species. Monitoring and management of these species and their habitat in the area is accomplished cooperatively among many agencies including Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, USFWS, U.S. Forest Service, Public Utility Districts, Yakama Nation, and other private and government agencies.
The MCRFRO is currently working on the following ongoing programs:

  • Chinook salmon and steelhead production in the Entiat River. Rotary screw traps are used to capture fish migrating downstream and assess juvenile steelhead and Chinook salmon population productivity and characteristics of migrating fish.
  • Steelhead spawning ground surveys in the Entiat River basin to monitor population characteristics.
  • Spring and summer Chinook salmon spawning ground surveys in the Entiat River Basin to monitor population characteristics and evaluate any straying of hatchery fish into wild spawning areas.
  • Superimposition of hatchery and wild summer Chinook salmon redds on wild spring Chinook salmon redds in the Entiat River. Spawning areas of these two subspecies overlap in the Entiat River. and Entiat NFH switched to rearing of summer Chinook salmon in measureingummer Chinook salmon spawning ground surveys in the Entiat River Basin to monitor population characteristics.

The MCRFRO has recently worked on the following projects:

  • Chinook salmon and steelhead production in Peshastin Creek, using a rotary screw trap to assess salmonid population productivity and characteristics of migrating fish (2004-2005).
  • Outplanting of excess Leavenworth NFH spring Chinook salmon to Peshastin Creek, a tributary stream void of salmon, to determine if hatchery fish could successfully spawn, produce and rear juveniles, and produce returning adults that would spawn. This project was done in cooperation with the Yakama Nation (2001-2005).
  • Distribution of hatchery salmon carcasses to area tributaries to enhance nutrients in the streams (2000-2003).

In addition during snorkel surveys and other assessments in area streams information is collected on salmon and steelhead.
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Bull Trout

The USFWS oversees the Endangered Species Act management of bull trout. MCRFRO has been involved in studying and monitoring bull trout since 1993. MCRFRO bull trout work includes:

  • Bull trout spawning ground surveys to monitor population characteristics in the Wenatchee, Entiat River, and Methow river basins. Surveys are completed in cooperation with U.S. Forest Service, USFWS Ecological Services, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Adult bull trout movement studies. Radio telemetry has been used to evaluate bull trout seasonal movements in the Wenatchee (2000-2004), Entiat (2004-present), Methow (2006-present), and Icicle Creek (2007-present).
  • Bull trout distribution surveys. Snorkeling and electrofishing have been used to evaluate the presence and distribution of bull trout. 
  • Bull trout genetics surveys to evaluate population relationships and assist with recovery and management. 
  • MCRFRO assists with USFWS regional bull trout programs to develop the USFWS Bull Trout Recovery Plan (in draft), designate critical habitat, and conduct the five-year review of the status of bull trout.
  • MCRFRO staff provide expertise on bull trout in development of subbasin, watershed, and restoration plans.

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Lamprey are primitive fish species that are widely distributed in the Pacific Northwest. Information on these species is limited and indicates that that their numbers are declining. Counts of lamprey at the Columbia River Dams shows a decline in number of lamprey migrating up the Columbia River. They are a species of concern, and four lamprey species (Pacific lamprey Lampetra tridentata, western brook lamprey L. richardsoni, river lamprey L. ayresi, and Kern brook lamprey L. hubbsi) were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2003.

Some of the lamprey efforts MCRFRO has been involved in include:

  • MCRFRO staff is a member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Western Lampreys Conservation Team
  • An adult Pacific lamprey movement study in the Yakima basin using radio telemetry was started in 2011 in cooperation with the Yakama Nation. The project is looking at lamprey overwintering areas and spawning migrations and evaluating movement past diversion dams.
  • Information about lamprey presence has been gathered at the Entiat River rotary screw traps and during some snorkel and electrofishing efforts. In 2009 - 2011 several areas of the Wenatchee and Entiat watersheds were surveyed using electrofishing to learn more about lamprey distribution.
  • Lamprey genetic samples were collected in 2011 in the Entiat and Wenatchee River basins for baseline analysis.
  • In 2004 MCRFRO surveyed for lamprey use of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery (NFH) abatement pond. Numerous lamprey were found in the pond.
  • In 2008 MCRFRO investigated lamprey use of the Entiat NFH abatement pond. Traps at the pond inlet from the Entiat River and outlet to the river helped us evaluate how the off channel pond was used relative to the river.
  • Education about lamprey. MCRFRO has worked to educate the public about these unique, native fish. They have displayed live lamprey ammocoetes, macrothalmia, and adults in aquariums at outreach events such as the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival, fishing days events, and Wanapum Archeology Days.

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Fish habitat restoration is a major focus of USFWS. MCRFRO supports restoration in many ways.

  • Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. USFWS works cooperatively with property owners to restore fish and wildlife habitat on private lands through this program.
  • Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act (FRIMA) provides cost-share funding opportunities for voluntary fish screening and passage projects associated with water diversions in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and western Montana. MCRFRO provides a staff person (Robes Parrish) as the Eastside coordinator for the FRIMA program.
  • The Fish Passage Program is a voluntary non-regulatory program that works to reconnect habitat that has been fragmented by barriers.Work is coordinated by regional USFWS staff. MCRFRO staff works with the regional program to deliver this program.
  • Technical assistance to other agencies implementing restoration projects.
  • Providing information about fish populations in different streams, which is necessary information when planning restoration projects.
  • Identification and prioritization of restoration projects through the subbasin planning processes.
  • Monitoring of stream restoration projects. The office is cooperatively monitoring fish populations within the Entiat River to evaluate restoration projects with funding from Bonneville Power Administration.

Recent Projects:

  • Hancock Springs restoration on the Methow River. Restoration makeover for the upper Hancock Spring channel. (pdf 1 kb)
  • 2013: Pioneer water project on the Wenatchee River. We were one partner on this Washington Water Project to improve a water diversion structure and water delivery system with continuing benefits to threatened salmon, steelhead, and other fish species. Please view the video or read the report for more information about this successful project.
  • 2013: Dillwater Restoration on the Entiat River. See these Videos of construction and funtioning of three engineered log jams.

    Dillwater ELJ4
    Dillwater ELJ4


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    Icicle Creek Project - Fish Passage, Stream Restoration, and Leavenworth NFH Water Intake

    MCRFRO has been working in cooperation with Leavenworth NFH to restore fish passage in Icicle Creek and to improve aquatic habitats in the historic channel of Icicle Creek. We are also working cooperatively to design and construct a new water intake system for the hatchery. MCRFRO is a member of the Bureau of Reclamations Project Alternative Solutions Study team addressing both the new intake and habitat issues associated with operations and maintenance of Leavenworth NFH.

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    MCRFRO staff play a key role in several planning efforts. The Service's mission and responsibilities are represented, and staff provide biological expertise. Following are major planning efforts MCRFRO is involved with.

    Mid Columbia Coordinating Committee/ HCP Coordinating Committees.  These committees work to improve fish survival and mitigate for losses to anadromous fish at the five Columbia River mainstem dams operated by the County Public Utility Districts.

    The Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board is a partnership among Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties, the Yakama Nation, and Colville Confederated Tribes in cooperation with local, state, and federal partners. The mission of the UCSRB is to restore viable and sustainable populations of salmon, steelhead, and other at-risk species through the collaborative, economically sensitive efforts, combined resources, and wise resource management of the Upper Columbia Region. The board developed the Upper Columbia Salmon and Spring Chinook Salmon Steelhead Recovery Plan.

    Regional Technical Team. MCRFRO staff serves on this interagency team that was formed by the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board. The team functions to 1) recommend region-wide approaches and priorities to protect and restore salmonid habitat, 2) develop and evaluate salmonid recovery projects within the Upper Columbia Region as appropriate, and 3) develop and guide salmonid recovery monitoring plans as appropriate. They also advise on development and coordination of regional salmonid monitoring and evaluation programs.

    Local Watershed Planning These groups which include landowners develop local plans and provide input about conservation efforts in their watersheds. MCRFRO provides technical assistance to some of these tributary groups in the Wenatchee, Entiat, and Methow River basins.

    Washington State Governors Salmon Recovery Board Technical Panel. MCRFRO staff has been on this panel reviewing habitat restoration projects throughout Washington.

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    Aquatic Nuisance Species

    Invasive species, including aquatic nuisance species (ANS), are defined as native species that have caused or have the potential to cause significant economic or environmental harm or present a threat to human health. MCRFRO works to assist the FWS regional ANS program coordinator in meeting Service goals to monitor for the presence of ANS species and to prevent new ANS introductions and minimize ANS range expansion.

    ANS species of concern in the mid-Columbia area include:

    MCRFRO conducts annual surveys at the Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop hatcheries to survey for presence of New Zealand mudsnails in their source/receiving waters. To date none have been found in this area. Zebra mussels and whirling disease have also not been found in local waters.

    Didymosphenia geminate (didymo), otherwise known as "Rock Snot," is diatom invader that has negatively impacted some popular fishing and recreational rivers and threatens cold-water streams in North America. It has been found throughout the U.S., including the Methow and Chewuch Rivers in this area of Washington.

    Anglers are cautioned to help prevent the spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS).

    • Waders and wading boots should be cleaned by rinsing and scrubbing before leaving a site or at a site away from any water body. Use a high pressure spray if available. Clean all parts of boots.
    • Inspect gear to make sure all sand, mud, gravel, plants, animals, and any possible ANS species are removed.
    • Eliminate all water from vessels before transporting.
    • Gear needs to be COMPLETELY dry a minimum of 48 hours between use in different water bodies.
    • Boiling or freezing gear in addition to cleaning and inspecting, if cannot dry. Not all species are killed by these. Boil at 140oF for 15 minutes, overnight in a freezer.
    • Never release plants, fish or other animals into a body of water unless that is where they came from.
    • Information about preventing the spread of ANS and ANS 101 including new science related to ANS can be found at the Clean Angling Coalition website. General information about preventing the spread of ANS can be found at Prevent the Spread.The 100th Meridian Initiative is a cooperative effort between state, provincial, and federal agencies to prevent the westward spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species in North America. The Aquatic Nuisance Species webpage is sponsored by several agencies and has recent news and information about ANS.

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    Yakima Program

    Due to the size of the Yakima Basin and the complexity of resource issues and tribal trust responsibilities, MCRFRO operates a separate sub-office of three staff biologists in Yakima. One biologist is funded by the Service, one by the Bureau of Reclamation, and the other biologist works on stream restoration projects. Some of the programs the Yakima sub-office staff is involved with include:

    Systems Operation Advisory Committee (SOAC): This group advises the Reclamation Yakima Project Manager on operations of their water storage and distribution system. They also develop strategies to protect the spawning needs of salmon while minimizing the dependence on extra releases of water. SOAC also provides expertise and advise on instream flows.

    Regional Technical Team: The interagency group develops recovery strategies and evaluates project proposals for the Yakima Basin Salmon Recovery Board.

    Technical Advisory Group for Reclamation: This group provides assessment of potential fish passage at five dams in the Yakima Basin.

    Bull trout recovery and monitoring efforts: Yakima staff has worked on -

    • Development of the USFWS's draft Bull Trout Recovery Plan unit chapter for the Yakima River basin.
    • Assisted other Service biologists on ESA section 7 consultation with Reclamation for their Yakima Project.
    • Worked with WDFW and USFS to monitor bull trout populations through redd surveys and determine presence and distribution through snorkel surveys.

    Reclamation fishery projects and evaluations: Work funded by Reclamation that the Service is involved with includes -

    • Technical expert and liasion on a multi-agency team implementing the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project.
    • Provide assistance in biological and environmental issues and studies associated with the Wapatox Power Plant.
    • Assist the Gap to Gap Project through participation on a technical work group and research and monitoring efforts.
    • Assist with ecological investigations associated with the Kennewick and Columbia Irrigation District's Yakima River Pump Exchange Feasibility Project.
    • Assist with implementation of the Yakima Project's Interim Operations Plan.
    • Development of flow recommendations downstream of Reclamation facilities.
    • Review of biological and environmental assessments.

    Fisheries and aquatic studies: Studies that staff have been involved with include:

    • The response of macroinvertebrates to increased year-round instream flow in Taneum Creek following the purchase of a water right for instream uses.
    • The Reclamation funded "Reaches Study" to identify key areas of Yakima River habitat important to fish and restoration needs.
    • The effects of returning more normative flows to the Naches River in areas previously dewatered by Wapatox Power Plant diversions.
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Last updated: March 24, 2014
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