In many ways Mount Rainier, as are many other national parks, is viewed as an island of "natural" habitat surrounded by disturbed areas. Yet our designated boundary does not necessarily reflect natural boundaries; many resources in Mount Rainier are influenced by practices outside our borders. A prime example is anadromous fish -- fish which spend part of their lives in salt water and return to fresh water to breed. Channelization, dam construction, etc., are factors which have a great influence on the extent of upstream migration of these fish. Two river systems originating in the park which might support anadromous fish are the Carbon and White Rivers. Both systems carry glacial silt during summer months; however, anadromous fish may enter the headwaters prior to heavy glacial melt and successfully spawn in clearwater tributaries off the main channel. For this reason, it is of interest to know what anadromous fish might utilize tributaries of the Carbon and White Rivers.
In hopes of learning what fish species (anadromous and non-anadromous) are in Huckleberry Creek and non-glaciated tributaries of the Carbon River, I surveyed these streams on August 9-10 with two members of the Northwest Steelhead and Salmon Council (NWSSC) of Trout Unlimited. The NWSSC, a sportsmans' association, functions to promote sport fishing and fish habitat for anadromous fish in the northwest, wading streams with an electroshocker powered by a 12-volt battery (supplied by USFS, White River Ranger Station), we stunned fish swimming between anode and cathode arms of the electroshocker. The charge delivered by the shocker is sufficient only to temporarily immobilize the fish, and only those fish (or careless fisherpersons) which come between the anode and cathode. In addition, the charge is not constantly emitted, but is sent through the water only when a switch on the anode handle is activated. Thus the chances for fish to escape being shocked (and hence counted) are great.
Fish may hide under logs or debris too low or dense for insertion of the charge plates, or may simply escape upstream or downstream of the shocker. A second problem we experienced was malfunctioning of the equipment (Murphy's Law and I are buddies). Not only were the battery terminal connections "touchy," even when these were properly connected, the shocker failed to deliver the recommended voltage. Thus many fish were not immobilized, but simply scared away at the first touch of the anode switch. Nevertheless, we did have some success, with these results:
*NOTE: Some fishermen had caught about 15 cutthroat trout, 8-10" or so in Huckleberry Creek on 8/10, another clue that the electroshocker was ineffective on larger fish.
The survey will be repeated in the spring. Contact Cat Hawkins, ext. 250, if you'd like to help.
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