One of our tribes is conducting a juvenile salmon escapement study in the Hood Canal area. Much of the work consists of catching young salmon, counting them, and taking a few samples for genetics while releasing the rest. They also take water quality readings, chlorophyll samples, and plankton counts at the different sites.
Last summer I went beach seining with them once, which was lots of fun. This year’s season is just getting started and I am hoping that I’ll be able to go out with them more. So far it’s looking like I might!
Back in April I went tow-netting with them for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect so it was a huge learning experience for me…
“Tow netting” is when a huge net is pulled through the water by two boats. The net started out in the larger research vessel I was on. The crew in the smaller boat would come up to our boat and take one end while we lowered the net into the water with the hydraulics. Then they would drive away, letting out the rope attached to the ends of the net. After about ten minutes, the guys on both boats would pull in the ends of the net while the center of the net was pulled up by the hydraulic puller on the research vessel and the small boat came to be tied up with the large boat again. The guys on the research vessel would pull the rest of the net into the boat and open the “purse” into a waiting tub of sea water.
It is quite the production.
I was the only rookie so I tried to stay out the of way until given a job. I couldn’t help but thinking of the entire process as a dance… everyone had their own steps to perform and it flowed smoothly. And I didn’t want to step on anyone’s feet (literally or figuratively).
Speaking of feet… I don’t have any boat boots that fit. So I decided to wear my Keens sans socks, which is better than wearing tennis shoes that would get soaked. My rain gear is too big for me so the legs are long enough to partially cover my feet, which helped to keep in some of my body heat. Overall my feet weren’t much colder than the rest of me so I didn’t mind not having boots. It was really funny once everyone else realized that I was just wearing sandals… I don’t think they believed me that my feet were fine.
I’m just hardcore like that. :)
We didn’t get any salmonids that day… just LOTS of jellyfish. Oh my. Plus a few tiny sculpins and a single perch. Not too exciting.
Part of the study involves documenting everything that we caught, not JUST the salmonids. We had to measure the first 25 individuals of each species and record the weight of all of the individual species. There were so many jellyfish that we ended up counting just a sample of the catch. Otherwise we would have been there all night counting jellies. Seriously.
Jellyfish can get old when it’s the only thing you’re catching, but I still enjoyed it. I now know that the majority of the jellyfish are water jellyfish and now I can identify a ctenophore. We got a couple of other types of jellyfish but we didn’t know what they were.
I’ve been able to go out tow-netting the last two times as well–once in May and once in June. We got a few salmon in May and a LOT in June… and still lots of jellies. (We got an awesome lion’s mane jellyfish in June! And a neat sail-fin sculpin that I’d never seen before, plus a few other non-salmonid and non-jelly critters.) I was too busy to take many pictures on the last two trips, so most of the pictures are from April. It’s been fun. :)