Fry Salvage

Submitted by Joe Kambietz, here is information to help interested individuals who come across stranded salmon fry during times of low water flow.


Why Salvage Fry?

Often young salmon become isolated and stranded in small pockets of water that is going dry. These fish may die here if they are not saved and put back into the main stream. This is what fry salvage is.

There are many reasons why these fish become trapped. They may have taken refuge from high water by going into a slough or side channel. The attraction of food or water flow can attract them into irrigation ditches, or perhaps it hasn't rained for some time and the creek is drying up, leaving its fish stranded in isolated pools. Salvaging these fry is a simple and satisfying project that can significantly help increase the productivity of the stream. When considering a fry salvage project, which always seem to be an unforeseen event, we must look quickly and carefully at the situation to determine the exact state of the emergency. Fish that are caught in isolated pools face many hardships, any of which will eventually kill them. These are:

Decisions to Make First

Now that we have concluded that our stranded fish are in dire need we must formulate a plan. This plan need not be complicated. Some of the following questions might help.


Concern for safety is essential when working outdoors and in remote areas. Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Never work alone; carry emergency phone numbers and a cellular phone if you are able. Supervise all children closely around any body of water. Carry a small first aid kit if possible. Do not attempt to wade fast flowing water or into water above your knees. Watch out for the slippery streambed, it can sprain ankles and twist knees. Beware of undercut banks and especially fast flowing areas. Buckets full of water and fish are heavy do not lift with your back. When carrying heavy loads get help. To ensure your safety get permission to cross private property and remember the dry streambeds and side channels are like roadways for wildlife and domestic stock. Beware of bears as they feed on scrap that remains caught in the brush during high flows or feed on overhanging berries. Make noise; carry a bell and bear spray if you are working in these areas.

Guidance and Approval

Effort and time of the Year

The personal effort on a fry salvage project can be substantial. Generally the drying up of a stream or productive habitat takes everybody by surprise. This condition is likely to happen in the heat of summer when everybody's on holidays. Also scrambling up and down dry streambeds in the heat of summer with big buckets of water and fish can be exhausting. In short, the effort is generally this side of panic with not much planning, and a whole lot of sweating. Start to think of salvage after every inordinate high flow in your stream and during dry hot spells. An unexpected flood will drive fry into side channels and off channel ponds when the main stream is in flood. The quickly dropping water will strand these fish. The critical time for fry salvage is in the warm summer months.


All dip nets and beach seines should be small enough mesh to capture fish from 1" to 8" long. Please note that the mesh should be from 1/8 to 1/4, less than 30 feet in length and less than 3 feet deep. This is a very specialised net that you will not find anywhere. If you think you might be doing fry salvage find out who has these specialised nets before hand and arrange to use them in an emergency. Good sources are Fisheries and Oceans, any biologist doing fieldwork studies or the Fish and Wildlife Branch as they use the same sort of equipment. Fish hatcheries and even your community advisor may have one or know where there is one. Pole seines, which are a small piece of net, generally less than 8 feet long and attached between two broom handles, are fairly quickly improvised, however, don't let that stop you from making good ones ahead of time that have a lead line and a few corks on them, just in case.


Transport Equipment


This page courtesy of The Pacific Streamkeepers Federation