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Columbia River Pound Net Project

Pound Net 1Location

Lower Columbia River (Cathlamet, WA)

Project Type

Alternative Commercial Gear Evaluation



Start Date

August 2013

Completion Date



Wild Fish Conservancy has initiated a two-year study in the Lower Columbia River to evaluate an experimental pound net as an alternative, stock-selective fishing tool for use in commercial salmon fisheries. This project is a continuation of WFC’s efforts to assist veteran commercial fisherman Blair Peterson in the construction and testing of his 2013 prototype trap.

A pound net is a stationary fish trap that passively captures returning adult salmon, enabling selective harvest of targeted stocks (such as hatchery-origin fishes) and release of all non-targeted and ESA-listed stocks. Historically notorious for the decimation of the Columbia’s once robust salmon runs, WFC’s modified pound net trap is demonstrating substantial promise in reducing bycatch mortality of ESA-listed fishes in commercial salmon fisheries and interbreeding of hatchery and wild salmonids (see WFC’s Year-1 report). Lacking existing performance data on this historically effective and popular commercial fishing gear (banned in 1936 along with all other fixed commercial gears), WFC’s 2016-2017 evaluation of pound nets as stock-selective fishing tools may identify a sustainable means for fishermen to harvest hatchery-origin fish and other healthy fish stocks while enabling recovery of wild and ESA-listed stocks that may be mixed within commercial fisheries.

A Year-1 feasibility study will be conducted in 2016 to assess total catch and immediate survival of salmonids captured in an experimental trap in the Lower Columbia River. Year-2 will investigate long-term and cumulative post-release survival from a modified pound net trap through a mark and recapture procedure. If successful in demonstrating high cumulative survivorship of released fishes and a catch-per-unit-effort equivalent to existing commercial gears, pound net traps may be commercially implemented, providing a sustainable alternative to conventional non-selective gears. Ultimately, transition to sustainable stock-selective gears will benefit both wild fish and fishermen by reducing bycatch mortality, improving targeting of hatchery-origin fishes, and minimizing detrimental genetic and ecological effects from hatchery programs.

Goals & Objectives

WFC and partners will further investigate the effectiveness of an experimental pound net trap in the Lower Columbia River as a stock-selective commercial fishing tool from August-October 2017. Specifically, objectives are to quantitatively evaluate the effectiveness of the gear in capturing hatchery-origin Chinook, coho, and steelhead and reducing cumulative bycatch mortality of ESA-listed wild fishes. As in all Lower Columbia alternative gear evaluations, the performance of pound nets relative to previously tested gears will be examined through a Year-2 study in which catch-per-unit-effort, capture conditions, bycatch, and cumulative survival of released fish are monitored utilizing a tag, release, and recapture procedure (WDFW 2011; WDFW 2014). Methods developed by the Colville Tribes and WDFW for experimental seine and tangle net operations will be utilized to maintain consistency for comparison of results between studies (with minor alterations to improve accuracy of survival estimates) (Ashbrook 2007; WDFW 2014). Similar to previous alternative gear tests, Year-2 of this study intends to achieve three major goals:

1) Test and refine deployment and operation of a modified pound net trap.

2) Determine effectiveness of the harvest method in capturing salmon relative to previously tested alternative gears. Directly estimate species-specific catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE).

3) Evaluate ability of pound nets to effectively protect non-target species through identification of capture/release conditions and cumulative survival of released fishes.

Employing a traditional Jolly-Seber survival analysis and Ricker’s two release method, results of the experiment will indicate whether pound nets can effectively capture salmonids with improved cumulative survivorship of released fishes relative to previously tested gears for the benefit of local fishing communities and ESA-listed fishes.

This project received funding under award #NA17NMF4720255 from NOAA Fisheries Service, in cooperation with the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of Wild Fish Conservancy and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA Fisheries.

Project Contact

Adrian Tuohy

Managing Agency/Organization

Wild Fish Conservancy

Budget or Project Cost

$266,000 (Year-1)

$228,769 (Year-2)

Funding Source/Partners

-Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

-The Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative

-Patagonia Provisions

-Blair Peterson

-Flathead Lake Biological Station

-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

-Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife


WFC 2016. Evaluation of Pound Nets as Stock-Selective Fishing Tools in the Lower Columbia Sub-Basin - Year-1 Report to the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative. Duvall, WA

Data Sharing Plan

Related Articles

The Pound Net's official online field journal:

Project update in Wild Fish Runs, Spring 2017


The Fish Trap from North Fork Studios on Vimeo.



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