Koeye River Fish Weir Progress

After a month of hard work, the Koeye River fish weir is in the water, and as of Thursday when I headed back into Bella Bella for the weekend we had caught and tagged five beautiful sockeye and one unexpected unspawned female steelhead. At the moment the weir is being manned by our friends and collaborators from the Hakai Institute, Grant Callegari and Jamie Cowan, and Qqs’ Jessel Housty. We are continuing work on a viewing platform that will allow us to sleep and eat safely 12 feet above the forest floor.

Last week, with the weir built and fishing we hosted a field trip of 15 excited 4th graders from the Bella Bella Community School. A core part of Qqs’ mandate and mission is youth engagement in Heiltsuk culture and environmental stewardship and since the inception of the weir project, finding opportunities for youth engagement and education has been a central focus. Working with our friend and colleague Johanna Gordon-Walker, we have thus far hosted two groups from the school and we will be working with interns from the Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) program at the weir this summer. By all accounts the field trip was a fantastic success. We shuttled students upriver to the trail head at Koeye on the high tide. The visit was made all the more special by what we found in the trapbox upon our arrival; a beautiful unspawned female steelhead, full of eggs and destined to spawn in the waters of the lower Koeye River in the coming days. None of the students had ever seen a steelhead and they were giddy with excitement at the sight ┬ásee the large, beautiful fish.

I am headed back down to the weir on Monday and wont return to Bella Bella until the end of my season here July 5th. Stay tuned to the Qqs blog for more updates as the summer continues.

Here are some pictures from the weir build:


Tripods half way across the lower Koeye




Pete Taylor of the Hakai Institute stokes the cookfire


Tripods spanning the Koeye




The Koeye River weir, finished.


Our working platform and trap box, looking back towards the platform and our camp


Masters work published at last


An Experimental Enclosure in Fox Creek – photo by Robin Munshaw

This week my masters work was published in Ecosphere, an open access journal that is a part of the ESA (Ecological Society of America) family of journals. For the study we experimentally manipulated a stream in the Angelo Coast Range Reserve, dramatically reducing inputs of terrestrial prey into the stream from the surrounding forest. Our work further demonstrated the importance of terrestrial invertebrate prey for juvenile steelhead growth and for the effects of predatory fish on the food web. In small, forested tributary streams invertebrates falling in from the bank and forest canopy represent a major portion of juvenile salmon and steelhead diets and our results suggest that these subsidies likely boost stream carrying capacity for juvenile fish significantly. Furthermore, while steelhead have been shown to elicit strong top-down responses in the larger South Fork Eel River, much of the aquatic invertebrate community in Fox Ck – where we carried out our experiment – is comprised of armored or otherwise invulnerable taxa (mostly cased caddis). This is likely a legacy of high fish densities and the fact that steelhead and other predatory fish are supported within the stream food web at levels far exceeding what could be supported by in situ prey alone.

Check out a copy of the manuscript on the ESA website, it’s open access!