Partners in Recovery

MSRF Twisp River Ponds

Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation (MSRF) and Yakama Nation Fisheries Resource Management have formed a partnership to restore coho salmon populations to the Twisp River basin.

Juvenile Coho Acclimation in the Twisp Ponds
In the spring of 2009, Yakama Nation Fisheries Resource Management and MSRF formed a partnership with the goal of restoring sustainable coho salmon populations to the Twisp River basin. As part of this partnership, the MSRF Twisp Ponds, a series of naturalized pools and streams in the lower Twisp River watershed, serve as a juvenile rearing facility for coho.  These young fish are the offspring of adults that have successfully made the difficult 600 mile journey back to the Methow Basin. 

School kids feeding coho smolts at the Twisp Ponds

 

 

 

The juvenile coho are transported to the ponds in the early spring when they are about a year and a half old.  They are reared in the ponds and then released to the Twisp River in early May of the same year. In the first year of the program, 35,000 coho were reared in the MSRF ponds.  This was increased to nearly 90,000 fish by 2012.

 

 

School kids feeding coho smolts at the Twisp PondsCoho Salmon:  Restoring Historic Populations
Historically, it’s estimated that between 38,000 and 51,000 adult coho returned every year to mid-Columbia tributaries. In the Methow, adult numbers are estimated to have been between 23,000 and 31,000. By the end of the 20th century, these natural coho populations no longer occupied many of their historic rivers, including the Twisp and the Methow. 

Coho populations were decimated by impassable dams, harmful forestry practices, unmanaged development, unscreened irrigation diversions, and the lack of early harvest regulations in the ocean and lower Columbia River. Following the completion of the Priest Rapids Dam in 1960, the number of adult coho returning upstream of the dam declined rapidly.  By 1994, an average of only 16 adult coho were counted upstream of Priest Rapids.

 

Healthy adult male coho trapped at Wells Dam on the Columbia River

In 1996 the Yakama Nation, in cooperation with state, local and federal agencies and funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, began studies to determine if the natural coho stocks that once returned to the mid-Columbia region could be re-established. As a result, the Yakama Nation has developed a program of coho reintroduction in the Methow and Wenatchee sub-basins.

The long-term vision of the program is to re-establish naturally spawning coho populations in the mid-Columbia tributaries to biologically sustainable levels that provide significant harvest in most years.  Today, the project is showing many signs of success, and returning numbers of adult coho are on the rise.