Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
TOGIAK: Kanektok Rainbows About to be Tagged
Alaska Region, June 3, 2009
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 “Tag, you’re it!” Do those words ring familiar to anyone, words perhaps spoken or heard on a playground or in a gym? Playing tag is something most of us grow out of at some point during our elementary years. But for some, the act of tagging remains well into adulthood, and takes on another- and extremely informational meaning altogether. ’m talking about fish biologists and their efforts to tag fish. On Togiak Refuge, this involves fish biologists and their efforts to radio tag fish.  Specifically rainbow trout are about to be “IT”.  A new two-year study of rainbow trout in the Kanektok River will begin in August.


The Kanektok River starts at Kagati Lake and flows east to west along the northern border of Togiak Refuge.  The Kanektok River is famous for its outstanding scenery and large, heavily spotted rainbow trout (called leopard rainbows by many). Meandering for nearly 90 miles before finally draining into Kuskokwim Bay, the Kanektok is surrounded by the second largest designated wilderness area in the entire Refuge system.


For the first part of the study, biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will deploy 200 radio transmitters in mature size rainbow trout throughout the Kanektok drainage. Rainbow trout usually mature by the time they reach 18” in length. These radio tags will provide movement information and identify important areas used by rainbows for spawning, feeding and overwintering. The transmitters used are about half the size of an AA battery, have a 10- inch wire antenna and will transmit for two years. The transmitters will be surgically implanted into the belly cavity and the wire antenna will exit through a hole between the pelvic fins and the tail. These fish will be tracked by aircraft until the summer of 2011. The second part of the study will involve collecting a small piece of fin from each rainbow trout as a genetic tissue sample for DNA analysis.


So what are biologists hoping to find out? The telemetry location data and the genetic information will help determine whether there are multiple discrete populations (e.g. fish that reside exclusively in the upper river and lower portions of the river) of rainbow trout in the Kanektok River or if they are all members of a single population. The Kanektok River is a major fishery for rainbow trout, with anglers coming from all over the world. This information will be extremely useful in determining the best way to monitor the health of the river’s trout population.


If you would like more information about these particular studies or past fish tagging studies conducted in southwest Alaska, contact the Togiak Refuge office you will be directed to the biologist who can best answer your questions. Please call 1-800-817-2538. If you make it out to the Kanektok River, keep an eye on the rainbows you catch. Some of them just may be wired.


Contact Info: Terry Fuller, 907-842-1063 ext. 8419, terry_fuller@fws.gov
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