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Fish Passage in the Hunter River Watershed

Successful Applicant:

UPEI Canadian Rivers Institute



Project Title:

Fish Passage in the Hunter River Watershed

Project Summary:

In 2019, a nature-like fishway was constructed at Campbell's Pond to restore Alewife and Rainbow smelt migration to Hunter River, as well new baffles were installed in the existing pool-weir fish ladder to improve the passage efficacy for Brook trout. The main goals of this research project are to study fishway efficacy and fish residency in Hunter River, Prince Edward Island.

A series of Oregon RFID readers are connected to a series of PIT antennas constructed inside both fishways, downstream and upstream of Campbell's Pond that record and detect the movement of fish containing a 23mm Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag in Hunter River. In April 2020, despite COVID-related delays, we were able to capture and tag 544 Brook Trout, 480 Alewife, 6 Rainbow Trout and 3 Rainbow Smelt. The preliminary results from June and July 2020 detected 88 Brook Trout, 56 Alewife, 2 Rainbow Trout, and 2 Rainbow Smelt tags at the entrance antenna of the nature-like fishway. Over 85% of Brook Trout 80% of Alewife that entered the nature-like fishway successfully passed including the biggest Brook Trout tagged in 2019 measuring at 54 cm. The pool-weir fish ladder and remaining antenna data will be analyzed this coming year. In April 2021, we will refocus our field efforts during the late evening, night, and dusk in hopes to capture enough Rainbow Smelt to tag and count how many enter, rest, and successfully pass the nature-like fishway.

Backpack electrofishing surveys were conducted at 10 sites in Hunter River and 10 sites in Wheatley River in October 2019 and 2020. Results are pending.

Water flow and temperature monitoring in Hunter River is ongoing using HOBO water-level loggers at six locations across the watershed. In addition, water quality measurements using a YSI meter are taken on a weekly basis at sixteen sites across Hunter River and five sites across Wheatley River since 2018 by local watershed groups. All water data will be analyzed in 2021.

Brook Trout redd surveys were conducted in both 2019 and 2020, the presence of Sea-run Trout and the density of redds in the headwaters of the upper sections of Hunter River is few in comparison to the overcrowded reaches in the lower main section of Hunter River. In Wheatley River, a dense gray mass of Sea-run Trout can be observed moving up to spawn each fall and redds are observed in the highest headwater spawning beds available. In March 2021, Rainbow Trout redd surveys will be conducted in both the upper and lower reaches of Hunter River and Wheatley River to map whether their redds overlap with Brook Trout.

Our work will benefit wildlife by providing an understanding of the effectiveness of nature-like fishways to improve and restore fish migration pathways on PEI. This will be accomplished by examining the efficacy of the new nature like fishway in comparison to older fishway structures in the Hunter River. This will lead directly to design and management decisions regarding fishways on PEI.

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