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Evaluation of Swimming Performance of Rainbow Trout and Westslope Cutthroat Trout for Assessment and Design of Fish Passage Structures

Project #: 4w2794
Start Date: 08/24/2009
End Date: 12/31/2012

Native species conservation is an integral part of many private, state and federal programs. Part of these conservation strategies involves the construction of barriers that purposely isolate native species and protect them from nuisance fish species, other issues involve the assessment of hydraulic structures such as road-stream crossings. In Montana and other parts of the West, barriers are used to protect populations of native trout from invasive species. Common physical barriers include leap and velocity barriers, both of which require knowledge of fish locomotion for proper design. Velocity barriers, in particular, require detailed knowledge of both swimming speed and, as important but often neglected, times to exhaustion. Contemporary synthesis reports and barrier assessment and design tools have identified a diverse collection of previous research where the swimming capabilities of fish were either a direct or anecdotal result of the project. One pitfall of a well organized and packaged collection of research results is that when presented in this manner all the results seem to carry equal validity and weight. In reality, some of the information noted in assessment tools or other synthesis reports is very anecdotal or sparse and should be used with caution (or not used at all). On the other hand, other information noted comes from very inclusive, transferrable, and well designed experiments and should be used with confidence. The dilemma is that for some cold water fish species important to Montana and the West, the literature documenting fish swimming capabilities is sparse and anecdotal, enough so to cast doubt on the use of such data for design or analysis of systems where fish mobility is at question. This effort is jointly sponsored by the Research and Innovative Technologies Administration of the USDOT; the Bozeman Fish Technology Center of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (BFTC-USFWS); Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Turner Enterprises, Inc. This project represents the portion sponsored by Turner Enterprises, Inc.


The primary objective of this research is to determine scientifically valid, volitional swimming abilities of westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout that reside in the Rockies Ecosystem.

WTI is evaluating the swimming performance of wild rainbow and westslope cutthroat trout for assessment and design of fish passage structures for highways and roads. The study involves constructing a large-scale research flume and performing fish swimming trials to determine swimming performance – fundamental biological information that current models and designs do not have.


  • Matt Blank
    Matt Blank


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