Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Montana Fishery
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Montana Fishery Project

Tenderfoot Creek Bair Ranch Foundation Research Project II

January 2014 - December 2015


Participating Agencies

  • Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

A detailed study of Tenderfoot Creek by the Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit at Montana State University has been ongoing since 2009. The past four years of data collection have produced an efficient data collection process, detailed knowledge about the area, connections with local landowners and agencies, and an intimacy with the dynamics of the Smith River basin. With this experience and groundwork, T. David Ritter and his team will add to the information already gathered by filling in the gaps where data is lacking and learn more about this system by investigating phenomena discovered over the course of the study. The following objectives have been identified: o Determine use of the Tenderfoot Creek confluence area as a thermal refuge. o Perform thermal mapping of the Smith River and Tenderfoot Creek and its outflow and confluence with the Smith River both on the ground and by aerial winter mapping of upwelling zones. o Tag about 250 fish in the Smith River to determine how they are using Tenderfoot Creek or its outflow. o Perform portable tracking surveys in the Smith River with emphasis on the Tenderfoot Creek outflow. o Investigate movement of fish year-round, with more emphasis on winter and spring and critical times of the year (high/low temperature and high/low flow). o Operate fixed stations at the confluence and 8 kilometers up from the confluence by replenishing batteries by snowmobile and perform portable antenna surveys during the winter. Spring operation of antennas may be difficult given the high flow associated with snow-melt, but would provide more insight to rainbow trout spawning effort and high-water movement of mountain whitefish. o Increase frequency of portable tracking events to locate fish between fixed stations. o Investigate movement of age-1 salmonids (brown, brook, and rainbow trout and mountain whitefish). o Use about 100 12-mm HDX PIT tags to monitor movement of fish under 120-mm.