Smolt Monitoring Project Week 8: Maintenance



Author: David O’Very, General Repair Mechanic

“Although maintenance isn’t the glamorous part of fish trapping, it is likely the most important part.  Properly maintained equipment helps ensure safety for the crew, the public, and fish.  It also provides us with properly functioning equipment to get the necessary fish data during the short window of opportunity.” – Scott Putnam

Keeping the mainstem Snake and Salmon river traps operating smoothly is key to having a safe and successful smolt trapping season.  The Snake and Salmon River smolt traps operate 24 hours a day and 5-7 days each week during the spring.  They collect biological data and tag fish for the Smolt Monitoring Project and Comparative Survival Study.  It is crucial that both traps operate efficiently and effectively without any mechanical failures or risks to the crew and fish.

Both fish traps have multiple moving parts that require weekly maintenance.  Some upkeeps include greasing the bearings, keeping the sump pumps that transport fish within the trap and supply fresh water to the livewell and recovery bin clear of any debris or obstruction, and maintaining the small motors.  The Snake River trap has three motors that run the debris screen, the dipper, and hoists for the trap box and are essential for operations.

In addition to periodic maintenance during the trapping season, repairs and improvements are made to both traps during the off-season (June-February).  Any potential improvements are typically geared towards providing additional safety for personnel and fish and longevity of operating the traps.  One of the biggest improvements to the Snake River trap recently was modifications to the trap box lift that allows logs and debris to float under the trap box and clear the trap.  The lift modifications provide better safety features should the cables or chains break.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Fish Passage Center cooperatively operate these fish traps as a key component of the Smolt Monitoring Program and the Comparative Survival Study. More information about these important wild salmon and steelhead trout projects is available at

For more information on Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead click here.

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    Scott Putnam