Clear Creek Fish Use Study

SPSSEG is coordinating work on behalf of the Floodplains for the Future partnership in the Puyallup Watershed to assess habitat restoration and fish utilization of a potential large-scale delta restoration project on the lower Puyallup River in the Clear Creek watershed. The Clear Creek project study area comprises an 1,100-acre area in the freshwater, tidal wetlands of the Puyallup River estuary.

On the ancestral and reservation lands of the Puyallup Tribe, this landscape holds deep cultural significance and offers one of the last remaining spaces where meaningful restoration of the Puyallup River delta is possible for all species of salmon and trout in the watershed.

Together with the Puyallup Tribe, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Pierce County, and the Port of Tacoma, SPSSEG is working to fish assess the physical and biological properties of this landscape to help inform feasibility and design of a restoration project at this location. The body of work includes assessing salmon and trout utilization in the Clear Creek watershed as non-natal, delta rearing habitat. To capture fish, we used seine nets to safely corral fish.

Once captured, we use non-lethal sampling methods to pump the fish’s stomach to see what they are eating to compare fish diets to food web production as it relates to habitat conditions.

We are also tagging fish captured in Clear Creek and throughout the watershed with Radio Frequency Identification Tags, similar to the tags used in pet microchipping. So far, over 2,000 young Chinook, Coho, Steelhead, Cutthroat, and Bull Trout have been tagged throughout the watershed.

We can then track movement of these tagged fish in and out of Clear Creek through 4 antennas which are set up on the upstream and downstream ends of the culverts at the confluence of Clear Creek with the Puyallup River. We can also use this data to assess fish passage issues through this 120-foot-long culverts that pass under State Highway 167/River Road.

So far, we are learning that Clear Creek is an important place for migrating fish to duck into to find a place to rest and feed before making their migration out to Puget Sound. Using the tagging technology, we are discovering fish like this bull trout are making multiple trips into Clear Creek from the Puyallup River.



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