Steelhead on the Columbia – 7/1/2008

I decided that a trip out in the boat was just the ticket for unwinding after work and catching at least some of the sunset. I put in at the Chinook Landing ramp, per usual, (and noted the netter boat tied up there) then did some scouting. No boats along Government Island, no boats up at the Sandy. I figured with steelhead counts nearing 1,000 at least somebody would be out. Spotted two boats working the east shoreline at the mouth of the Sandy but couldn’t tell what they were fishing for.

The first spot I settled in wasn’t to my liking so I moved. Tried putting out the flo-orange U20 but she wouldn’t swim so I put out a gold K11 while the sun was still high. When the sun started to sink, I put out a red and black beaded spinner with a tarnished old brass batwing blade.

I sat and listened to the radio, had some homebrew barley pop (just one bottle, thank you) and read a book. I checked my gear every once in a while to make sure I was still fishing, then resumed reading and surveying the scenery now and again. When the netter boat setting up off of Washougal headed upriver, I decided it was time to pull the hook and head home. The sun was starting to sink low and I wasn’t really into navigating in the dark even though I’m quite familiar with the area.

I got below the powerlines and setup on the channel markers and something caught my eye in the water off my starboard bow. It was bright yellow and had some floats with it. I thought to myself, “I’ve seen that kind of thing before on Ifish” so I spun the boat around and inspected it. After a quick review I hauled it aboard and beat feet for the ramp.
So, final report – I marked a few fish but didn’t have any takers except for this research bouy:

It says I get a reward for returning it and I can’t wait to call the number tomorrow to find out more about it. I didn’t pick it up just for the reward but a few dollars towards boat gas would sure be nice. More than anything, I want to make sure that it makes its way back into the right hands.

Update [7/1 – 8pm] – the device is made by Sonic Concepts and the following is from their website:

Key Features

  • Simultaneous reception and tag ID decoding of Sonic Concepts’ Coded Fish Tag
  • Continuous tag ID logging for unlimited periods
  • Transducer options allow either wide angular coverage or enhanced listening range
  • Ultrasound frequency = 416.7 kHz
  • Overall size: 0.9 m long by 11.5 cm diameter
  • Omni-directional horizontal pattern
  • Storage of encoded messages using compact flash cards
  • Data transfer using RS-485 or RS-232
  • Optional radio telemetry

So, it looks like the data gets stored on a CF card which apparently is why recovery and return is important.

Update [7/2 – 9am]: I just got off the phone with one of the guys who cares about these objects and it turns out that the reward for return is $250. That should keep the boat gassed up all summer long as well as buying some new fishing gear. I’m hoping to get an email address from someone so that I can find out where this thing was originally deployed and what data is on it.

It dawns on me that some folks who might read this page don’t really know what an object like this is for.  If you visit this page on SonicConcepts’ website, you’ll find more info than you really wanted to know (or perhaps just enough, or if you’re me not nearly enough) about how this whole system works.  Suffice it to say that transmitters are implanted into fish and the device I found is used to track these fish as they make their way downriver as juveniles to test the efficacy of devices used at the dams to lower smolt mortality.  Not only is the device itself expensive and worth the reward, the data that is contained in it is equally valuable, if not moreso.

Update [7/2 – 7pm]: a nice young fella dropped by the house this evening to retrieve the device and explained further the circumstances of how I came to find it.  These are deployed using an anchor system that includes an electronic release system.  They send a device down near where the node is located to trigger the release system.  For some reason, it didn’t work.  They spent two days trying to retrieve it and apparently it was only on the surface for a few minutes when I came across it.  Another one had been recovered on Hayden Island a few days prior.  He unscrewed the end to show me the battery and electronics inside and was happy that they could deploy the device as soon as the following day.