FALL CREEK, Ore. — Young salmon in the Fall Creek Reservoir are migrating out of the area this time of year, but they need a little help getting started.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is giving juvenile salmon a higher chance to live by lowering the water levels at the Fall Creek Reservoir and helping them get to the ocean.
They’re much shorter than their adult counterparts–213 millimeters–and also weigh less–119.3 grams. For these young salmon to grow as big and strong as the adults, the little fish need to find a much bigger pond.
“They’re going to migrate out of Fall Creek Reservoir, and then they move very quickly downstream,” said Greg Taylor, Fisheries Biologist.
From there, they go to the ocean where they grow much larger. But to get there, the fish have to safely pass through the Fall Creek Dam. Fisheries biologist Greg Taylor says that’s been a challenge in the past, which is why humans are stepping in to help.
“We do it in two ways. We draw the reservoir down which attracts the fish to the dam location and then we open the gate on the dam very wide so the fish can safely pass underneath the gate,” Taylor said.
Taylor says the bringing the reservoir level down every winter has made a world of difference for the salmon.
“The draw down has really allowed us to pass more juveniles out and more of those fish safely,” Taylor said.
Taylor says before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started doing this project a number of years ago. The survival rate of fish coming through the dam was around 80 percent. Now, that number has jumped up to nearly 97 percent.
“You can only gather so much information about a fish coming through a dam in a screw trap. But if you put a tag on them, you can actually track them through their whole life history and see what becomes of them,” Todd Pierce, Fisheries Biotech.
Taylor says they know what they’re doing is making a difference when more fish come back too.
“We get rewarded when the adults come back, and so this is an exciting time for us. It’s what we like to do,” Taylor said.
Taylor says the fish will come back from the ocean to the reservoir in about three to five years where they’ll reproduce.