Tag Archives: survive the sound

Steelie ‘Smolts’ Again Set To Try To Survive The Sound

For the third spring in a row, dozens of steelhead “smolts” will try to make their way from southern Puget Sound and Hood Canal rivers to the Pacific, an interactive game meant to highlight the plight of the little fish against predators, pollution and other perils.

This year’s online Survive the Sound challenge kicks off May 6 and playing is now free (previously the public entered with a donation), with teachers also supplied with a new toolkit of activities for their students.

PARTICIPANTS PICK CARICATURES OF STEELHEAD SMOLTS THAT CORRESPOND TO ACTUAL YOUNG FISH FROM THE NISQUALLY AND SKOKOMISH RIVERS THAT WERE IMPLANTED WITH RADIO TAGS FOR THE PREVIOUS YEAR’S MIGRATION. ACOUSTIC DEVICES IN PUGET SOUND RECORD THEIR PASSAGE AND THAT DATA IS USED FOR THE CURRENT YEAR’S SURVIVE THE SOUND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The project’s website has also been simplified, with participants encouraged to join teams.

“The team with the most surviving fish at the end of the five-day migration wins!” says Lucas Hall of Long Live The Kings.

In the first two years, Northwest Sportsman‘s smolts have not had the best of luck, and Hall’s organization is working to understand the reasons behind declining marine survival in Puget Sound and other inside waters for not only real-world steelhead but also Chinook and coho.

Some of that work is pointing towards the Hood Canal Bridge as a very bad chokepoint for steelies.

LONG LIVE THE KINGS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JACQUES WHITE POINTS TO A SLIDE SHOWING HOW TWO SMOLTS FARED AT THE HOOD CANAL BRIDGE — THE ONE ON THE RIGHT, FAIRLY WELL, THE OTHER LIKELY AS DINNER FARE FOR A HARBOR SEAL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

During a kickoff celebration to this year’s event held earlier in April at Anthony’s Pier 66, LLTK’s Jacques White shared a slide that showed how two different radio-tagged fish dealt with the structure, which lays across most of the canal and continues underwater at least 15 feet.

One fish was able to emerge from underneath the bridge, swim back to the top and continue on towards the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The other made a number of dives to depths that steelhead would otherwise avoid — probably in the stomach of the harbor seal or possibly a harbor porpoise after the young fish was eaten.

Those two fish are among the 500 or so implanted with radio tags in their home streams before their journey to the ocean. Acoustic devices in Puget Sound record their passage or lack thereof, and that data is used for the 48 representative smolts that make up the field of contestants in the challenge, as it were.

TOURISTS AND OTHERS ENJOY A VIEW OF PUGET SOUND ON A SUNNY SEATTLE SATURDAY, A TRANQUIL SCENE THAT BELIES THE MAJOR CHALLENGES FISH FACE IN THE INLAND SEA AND ITS TRIBUTARIES. THE SURVIVE THE SOUND GAME AIMS TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ON THOSE AND HOPEFULLY HELP SUPPORT HABITAT AND OTHER ACTIONS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

With six days until the migration begins, 4,000 people have joined and nearly 740 different teams have formed so far (ours is Team Sealyalater, captained by Steely).

Deadline to join is May 5 but afterwards you can still follow the Journey Of The 48 on Survive the Sound’s map.

The experience is sponsored by a number of local tribes, Tacoma Power, Vulcan, and the Pike Place Market, among others.

A SIGN ADVERTISES A NEW BAR AND RESTAURANT COMING TO PIKE PLACE MARKET, BUT LITTLE FISH ARE ALSO SWIMMING PAST NOT FAR AWAY IN PUGET SOUND, OUTMIGRATING STEELHEAD, CHINOOK, COHO, CHUM AND SOCKEYE SMOLTS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Steelhead Smolts (And Their Sponsors) Set To Try And ‘Survive The Sound’ Again

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM LONG LIVE THE KINGS

Local nonprofit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has launched Survive the Sound, an interactive game that lets local residents “race” steelhead as they make their annual migration through the Puget Sound. All proceeds help fund LLTK research and conservation efforts to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations in areas of critical need.

STEELHEAD SMOLTS WILL ONCE AGAIN TRY TO MAKE IT OUT OF PUGET SOUND, AND FOR THE SECOND YEAR THE PUBLIC CAN FOLLOW THEIR JOURNEY THROUGH FISH THEY CAN SPONSOR. (SURVIVE THE SOUND)

Steelhead are now at 10 percent of their historic abundance, due in part to the many threats they face on their way through the Puget Sound: predators, disease, and habitat destruction. During this spring’s steelhead migration, Puget Sound residents can make a difference by sponsoring a fish (or a whole school of them) through an interactive game, Survive the Sound.

Sponsoring a steelhead allows players to track their progress to the finish line via the Survive the Sound website. Players can compete with friends, family and colleagues to see if their pick survive the migration to the Puget Sound – it’s like fantasy football for fish. And the stakes are high on this dangerous journey. Last year, just six of 48 steelhead survived. People looking to join must lock in their picks by May 6 to play.

LTTK has worked for more than 30 years on research and conservation efforts to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations. Participation in Survive the Sound helps LLTK bring the game to local classrooms for free–engaging students in local conservation efforts. This year the resources will reach more than 30,000 students.

“As the Washington State fish, it is up to all of us to help protect wild steelhead – they need all the help they can get,” said Michael Schmidt, Deputy Director of Long Live the Kings. “By using an interactive gaming platform, Survive the Sound gives local residents and kids the opportunity to learn about the major threats to salmon and steelhead populations, make a difference, and have fun while doing so.”

The Survive the Sound migration runs from May 7-18. Players can also create their own team to raise funds for steelhead recovery efforts or spark friendly competition at work by challenging colleagues. Registration closes May 6.

Support of Survive the Sound helps LLTK continue their work to ensure that wild salmon and steelhead remain a vital part of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem for years to come.

For more information on Survive the Sound, visit www.survivethesound.org.

My Steelhead Smolt Did Not ‘Survive The Sound’

Blitz just got nixed.

Not the Seahawks mascot — the Seahawks mascot-themed wild Nisqually steelhead.

A day after my green-blue-and-silver-colored smolt set off down the river on its grand journey out through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I got the bad news that Blitz had made it just 6.83 miles before going belly up.

AN UNFORTUNATELY FAMILIAR POSITION, AS IT TURNED OUT, DURING THE SHORT LIFE OF BLITZ THE WILD STEELHEAD SMOLT, MAY THE FISH GODS HAVE MERCY ON HIS (OR HER) SOUL. HERE HE (OR SHE) WAS BEING IMPLANTED WITH AN ACOUSTIC DEVICE TO TRACK ITS PROGRESS THROUGH PUGET SOUND, BUT NOT 6.83 MILES INTO ITS JOURNEY, A DIGITAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ACTUAL STEELHEAD MET ITS DEMISE IN THE NISQUALLY RIVER. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Let us pause now for a moment of silence.

They can’t tell me why my little Blitzy died, but the river sometimes known as the Nasty has high enough levels of PDBEs — the stuff that makes products more flame resistant — to mess with the health of steelhead, increasing their risk from predators.

That’s according to the organizers of Survive The Sound, an interactive challenge that on Monday launched four dozen digital fish replicating the swims of actual radio-tagged steelhead as part of an effort to draw attention to the plight of the state’s fish in Puget Sound waters.

“Your fish didn’t survive the Sound,” commiserated Lucas Hall at Long Live The Kings, which put together the campaign with help from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.

BLITZ THE NISQUALLY STEELHEAD SMOLT. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Yesterday morning Hall said his email was blowing up after some of the game’s 1,100 participants learned their fish had succumbed on the first day of their 12-day journey from the Nisqually or Skokomish Rivers to the open ocean.

Blitz lived through day one, as would 47 percent of the smolts in reality, but on day two that percentage dropped to 42, sacking Blitz, among others.

The road won’t get any easier for those survivors, which have many challenges ahead, including hungry harbor seals.

As the faux smolts make their trip, LLTK programmed text boxes to talk about the perils beyond pinnipeds and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and which have grown as Pugetropolis has developed.

Yesterday’s informed me that where in 1917 we would have likely seen at least 325,000 to possibly as many 800,000 adult steelhead returning annually, today only 13,000 do, and the stock is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“The reality is, steelhead are dying, and that’s something to be mad about,” says Hall. “If people are mad, good.”

He said what happens to each fish is a computer-randomized outcome. A “ghost fish” will continue to make the journey, keeping me informed of other perils.

A MAP SHOWS THE PROGRESS MY SMOLT HAD MADE BEFORE MEETING ITS DOOM HALFWAY TO THE MOUTH OF THE NISQUALLY RIVER. (SURVIVE THE SOUND)

I got to wondering about just how many Puget Sound smolts might have made this annual spring journey 100 years ago, so I asked state fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull.

He gave me a range of possibilities, based on LLTK’s estimates and survival rates varying from a high of 20 percent down to today’s 2 percent. They suggest production of just 1.625 million smolts to produce 325,000 adults under the very best of conditions to 40,000,000 needed to yield 800,000 under the worst.

Barkdull says a 10 percent survival rate would “make sense” to him, so 3.25 million smolts producing 325,000 returners.

I’m cranky Blitzy got killed so early in his (or her) outmigration, but through Survive the Sound’s 48 smolts, I hope people outside of our fishing and hunting world also get pissed enough to learn more about how to get more young steelhead out and safely back as adults.

48 Steelhead Smolts Set To Go On Very Public, Perilous Journey Through Puget Sound

Think you could survive swimming out through Puget Sound? Think you could do it if you were a steelhead?

If so, you might be interested in signing up for a new interactive challenge debuting this spring that will allow the public to track smolts as they try to make the journey.

HOOD CANAL AND SKOKOMISH RIVER STEELHEAD HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING IN RECENT DECADES DUE TO HABITAT LOSS, BUT BIOLOGISTS ARE BEGINNING TO SEE THAT SMOLTS ARE HAVING A MORE DIFFICULT TIME THAN EXPECTED OUTMIGRATING. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

It will pit 48 actual acoustic-tag-bearing young winter-runs from the Nisqually and Skokomish Rivers against pollutants, harbor seals, long bridges, hungry birds and other challenges as the ESA-listed fish outmigrate through Hood Canal and the South and Central Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North Pacific.

If they even make it that far.

According to Long Live The Kings, which designed “Survive The Sound” with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc., fewer than 20 percent of young steelhead make it out of Puget Sound these days.

The idea behind the experience is to bring that awareness to an audience beyond you, me and other steelheaders (we’ve written about it here and in the magazine), as well as raise money for research on our favorite species, and along the way have a little fun.

“Survive the Sound is a new way for people to interact with and learn about our Washington State fish,” Long Live The Kings posted in announcing the challenge. “Steelhead are magical: their behavior can signal deeper issues within the surrounding ecosystem, they are prized by chefs and anglers alike, and their presence is critical to sustaining tribal culture and treaty rights. Unfortunately, the Puget Sound steelhead population has declined dramatically over the past century —to less than 10% of its historic size— and they’re now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Today, there is serious concern that this iconic fish will slip into extinction.”

Here’s how to play:

Go to Survivethesound.org and pick one or more of the four dozen smolts that have been given all sorts of crazy names and avatars.

Northwest Sportsman is sponsoring Blitz, one of several Seahawks-themed steelhead, who’s looking for “a lot of support from the 12th man.” (Look for “Russell Wilswim” next year.)

BLITZ THE NISQUALLY STEELHEAD SMOLT. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Drag your pick(s) into the little box at left and then fill out the credit card billing info to make a $25 donation per smolt to Long Live The Kings, a venerable organization looking into declining salmon and steelhead stocks in the Salish Sea and what can be done to support fisheries for them here.

After submitting the info, you’ll get a confirmation email and a link to a page that will allow you to see your smolt’s pace and distance covered, plus where it is on a map.

Blitz — a Nisqually smolt — hasn’t gone Beast Mode yet, but starting May 8 he and the rest of the young steelhead will begin their journey.

OTHER AVATARS INCLUDE A TASTY SWEDISH FISH, AND A NOT-SO-HEALTHY LOOKING SALMON ELLA. (LONG LIVE THE KINGS)

Their tags will be read (or not if they’re eaten or otherwise die) by sonar stations at key places in the saltwater.

Along with progress updates, you’ll also get briefings on problems facing Puget Sound steelhead, which were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2007.

Then, NMFS said the “principal” reason was loss of habitat, but also “noted that predation by marine mammals (principally seals and sea lions) and birds may be of concern in some local areas experiencing dwindling steelhead run sizes.”

That’s become more and more of a concern, what with high numbers of pinnipeds and how many young Chinook they may be eating, but there are also suggestions that steelhead smolts just can’t get past the Hood Canal Bridge and that also makes them easy pickin’s.

To, er, hook lots of people into playing Survive The Sound, organizers have a variety of prize categories, including biggest “school” and fastest fish, and if you sign up before April 5, your name will go into a raffle for a stay at Alderbrook Resort, near the hook of Hood Canal.

It will be interesting to see if Blitz gets sacked himself (or herself for all I know) or rushes past the pinnipeds and cormorants and is able to reach the ocean’s feeding grounds.

It will be even more interesting to know if this vehicle delivers the plight of Pugetropolis’s steelhead to the masses, getting more people on board to do something about it.

Editor’s note, March 30, 2017, 2:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this blog mistakenly reported that the steelhead smolts had been radio-tagged. The fish in this research bear acoustic tags, according to Long Live The Kings.