Restoring aquatic connections to floodplains is an important habitat restoration action for Skagit Chinook salmon. Specifically these restoration projects are designed to restore connections between the rivers and off channel habitat such as sloughs and side channels in order to provide young salmon with more rearing habitat.
Off channel habitat is crucial to juvenile salmon as they make their long journey downstream to the salt water. During high river flows, small fish can rest in off channel habitat to get out of the fast flowing main river. During low river flows, young salmon can find refuge in cool, shaded off channel habitat when water levels drop in main river channels.
Community volunteers and student interns are assisting SFEG staff in learning more about juvenile salmon use where floodplain restoration projects are occurring. Led by SFEG staff, seining nets are used to sample what fish are using off channel water bodies where floodplain restoration projects are planned or have already been implemented.
In 2017, community volunteers assisted in collecting samples at 4 locations. Juvenile Chinook fish were found using habitat where previous restoration efforts had occurred during each survey event at Howard Miller Steelhead Park documenting the success of this type of restoration effort.
Surveys were also done at project locations where future restoration projects will occur in order to provide data for post project comparisons. Community members were often invited to observe these sampling efforts to better understand how many small salmon are using these valuable slow moving water bodies.