My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Fishy Story - with the Fish Guys

I met two guys, Jason Marsh and Josh Melton, collectively referred to as the "Fish Guys" who were moving out to another house as I was moving in to the bunkhouse.  They are doing a survey of Arctic grayling and go out three times a day to take fish from fish traps and tag them. This sounded so interesting that I asked to go along with them on Sunday. What a fabulous learning experience.

There are only two native populations of Arctic grayling left in the lower forty - this one and one in Big Hole, Montana so the state, Fish and Wildlife Service, and universities all have studies going to try and save them.  Jason and Josh are collecting data for the FWS.

We started the survey just before 9:00 A.M. on Red Rock Creek. The first thing the guys had to do was to clear trash and silt from the weir.  The water was the highest it's been in the fifteen years the survey has been going.

Donning the waders

The survey is set up with a weir and two traps.  One catches fish swimming downstream and the other catches fish swimming upstream.  Fish swim upstream to spawn and back down to Red Rock Lake after they finish spawning. There are four main species of fish in the creek: the grayling, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brook trout, and white suckers. The cutthroat and brook trout are non-native and are being removed. The guys kept all the trout for the food bank.  I volunteered to behead and gut them.  We packed them into bags of two fish and froze them for delivery to the food bank.  I also got some trout for the house.

Cleaning out the trash behind the weir - Jason is doing the silt dance to stir it up and move it downstream

 Today, most of the Arctic grayling had spawned - only one pair was swimming upstream to spawn. But the suckers were in the midst of spawning so we had lots of them in the downstream trap and they were almost exclusively in the upstream trap. And one of the cutthroat trout I cleaned had a few fish eggs.

Hauling fish to the survey station



Inserting the tag

Newly tagged grayling

A recaptured radio tagged grayling - from a study by another graduate student

The beautiful dorsal fin of a male Arctic grayling

The only egg-carrying female captured

Wonder why they call them suckermouths ?

Cutthroat trout on the way to the food bank

And charity does begin at home.

The end
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Sorry for the lateness of the post.  But I've been moving in, and had to drive 230 miles yesterday to buy groceries.  That ended up being an almost all day endeavor. And I'm at 6000 feet above sea level, so I'm still moving slowly.  I'll have Monday off and then get my official orientation on Tuesday. Hopefully, I'll be back to my usual energy level.