California. Dept. of Fish and Game.

California fish and game (Volume 43, no. 4) online

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with the forward ring uppermost is slid beneath it. The two netting
edges formed by the radial pattern lines are not joined until after the
material has been fitted on the frame ring. The netting is then placed
on the forward ring, leaving an overlap of six inches around the ring.
The netting is then attached at about 30-inch intervals to the ring with
temporary ties of No. 16 ware. After the netting has been attached and
properly fitted to the ring, there will be an overlap of six inches at
the center seam. The overlapping netting is then secured by twisting
the cut ends into the adjacent meshes, the same as for the funnels. If
the frame ring assembly is placed on edge after the wire mesh has been
temporarily tied to the front ring, twisting the center seam wires
becomes considerably easier. The ends of all wires should be left pro-
jecting toward the outside of the trap. Figure 4 shows a trap front,
and rings after the front has been completed.

Trap Assembly Jig

A great aid in the final assembly of each trap is a jig to hold the
frame rings and funnels in place while the barrel is being covered
with netting, and until the wooden stringers have been attached. The
jig used included four lengths of one-inch diameter pipe, each 21 feet
long. Three-eighths-iuch diameter holes were drilled through the pipes
at intervals representing the desired spacing of the trap frame rings.
Holes for the frame ring next to the front end of the trap were
omitted, since this ring was already part of a rigid assembly. The
remainder of the jig consisted of 16 iron hook bolts. These bolts were
made of three-eighths-inch material, with a bend at the end, to hook
around the three-quarter-iiidi diameter frame rings (Figure 7). By
holding the principal component parts of the trap frame rigid through-
out the final assembly, the jig saA'ed. time and effort.

FINAL TRAP ASSEMBLY
One of the first steps in the final assembly of the trap is to attach
the jig pipes to the frame rings. The front ring assembly, including
the trap front netting, is placed on its side. The fifth or back frame
ring is then placed against the front ring and each is marked identi-
cally at four equally spaced points around its circumference. The
back ring is then laid aside temporarily. Next, the two funnels, in-
cluding the frame rings, are nested against the rear ring of the front
ring assembly and attached individually with temporar^^ wire ties. The
first of the jig pipes is inserted along the inside of these four rings and
fastened with a hook bolt to the front ring, at one of the four marks.



WIRE FYKE TRAPS



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284 CALIFOKMA IISIl AMJ (;A.\IK

The back frame riiif; is tlnMi fastened to tlw otliei* end f)f the jig pipe
Avith a liook bolt, at one of tlie marks. A second ji<i- i)ii)e is now fastened
to the opposite side of tlie frame rings, in the same manner. The entire
assembly is then rolled one-quarter turn and the other two jig pipes are
attached at the appropriate marks on the front and back rings. Figure
7 shows the as.sembly at this point. After all four pij)es have been
attached to the front and back fi-ame rings, the temporaiy ties holding
the funnels together are cut, and the fuiniels are shifted to their
respective positions. They are then bolted in ])()sition to the jig pipes.

Two sizes of wire mesh netting cover the outside or barrel of the
trap. Two strips of 2 by 3 inch mesh salmon trap wire, each six feet
wide, encase the portion to the rear of the front funnel. The remain-
ing section of the trap, the fish impounding area, is covered with a
6-foot and 1^-foot strip of 1-inch mesh stucco wire netting. The l^-foot
strip was made by splitting a 3-foot roll, since narrow rolls of stucco
wire were not available. To prevent long sharp wires from protrud-
ing, all cuts should be made close to the twisted portions of the wire
mesh. The two strips of netting are laced together before covering
the trap. However, it is not advisable to lace the two different sizes
of netting together, since this frequently causes buckling. Instead,
they are laced simultaneously to the trap frame ring where they
join. The barrel of the trap is covered by laying the laced strips side
by side on the ground and then rolling the trap frame over them.
As the frame rolls over the wire, the netting is laced firmly to the
frame rings with Xo. 16 wire. Tying the netting to the rings with
temporary ties of Xo. 16 wire, ahead of the lacing, often helps to
space the netting. As the Avire lacing attaches the netting covering
the barrel of the trap to the frame rings, it also laces the funnel
netting to the rings. The cut ends of the trap front netting overlap
the barrel and are twisted into the meshes covering it as the trap
covering and front are laced to the front frame ring.

An easy method of securing the wire mesh to the door opening is to
trim the netting close along the sides of the door opening and then
lace with X^^o. 16 Avire. When the netting is cut ])roperly, there is in
effect a selvage edge at every other mesh to lace through, since the
twisted sides of each hexagonal mesh are parallel to the sides of the
door opening. However, the netting at the fop and bottom of the door
opening should be cut long enough to wrap around the pipe stringers
of the door opening, and the cut ends should be twisted into the
adjacent meshes. All wire ends should be left on the outside of the
trap. These cut ends should be kept as short as possible on the bottom
of the door opening, so they will not foul the dip net -while fish are
being removed from the traj). The wire mesh is applied to the door
frame itself in the same manner.

The Door
The door i.s hung on the inside of the trap from the top of the
door opening frame, Avith hinges made of doubled strands of Xo. 16
Avire. The door opening rope and the door locking levers complete the
door assembly. See Figure 8 for details of locking levers. The door is
opened iuAvard by a rojie running on the inside of the trap from the
bottom of the door through a small pulley fastened to one of the



WIRE FYKE TRAPS



285



stringers above the door, thenee to the outside of the trap. The door
frame is made of three-eighths-inch pipe. It is 51 inches high and
50 inches wide. This allows the door to overlap the door opening by 3
inches at the sides and bottom. The door is bent to conform with
the curvature of the door opening to assure a fish-tight fit when closed.

Attaching the Longitudinal Stringers

When all lacing is complete, the 2 by 4 inch stringers are fastened
to the frame rings on the outside of the trap with No. 9 galvanized
wire. One stringer is attached immediately above and another just
below the door opening. The lower stringer should be at least two inches
below the door opening to allow space for the door-locking levers. The
remaining stringers are spaced equally around the trap. One-fourth-inch
holes are drilled through the stringers to take the wire at the two end
frame rings, so there will be no chance of slippage. The rest of the
wire ties are wrapped around both pipe and board at each frame ring
and twisted tight. The stringers are tied at all rings. The pipe jigs may
now be removed. Next, the funnels are guyed to the frame rings with
No. 9 wire. The front funnel guys should not interfere with fish removal
or opening of the door.

The Bridle
The head cable bridle on the front of the trap is made with two
pieces of quarter-inch ca])l('. It is attached at four equally spaced
l^oints to the front frame ring and crossed in the center. The bridle



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FIGURE 8. General diagram of the front of the trap, showing the door and bridle assembly.



286 CALIFORNIA FISII AND GAME

cables are fasteneil t()<i:ether \vhere ihey cross, witli a tlirce-eip:hths-inch
cable clip. One of tlie cables is ciil sliglitly lon«i^er than the other and
a small loop is formed in ii at the center, before the cable clij) is
attached. The liead cal)]!' is Inter attached to this loop. The bridle
cables are fastened to the frame i-in^:' with a lialf hitch and are secured
by seizing with No. IB wire or witli a cabh' clip. On the Sacramento
River, there Avas ordinarily no great strain on the bridle, so securing
with cable clips was not necessary. The bridle should be made so that
it clears the trap front by a few inches. To su])])()rt the wire netting
of the trap front, two pieces of No. 9 wire are fastened across the
front of the trap on the inside of the wire mesh, directly opposite the
bridle cables. These trap front supports are tied with short pieces of
Avire to the bridle at the center, and at one or two other points to each
bridle cable. The ties should be long enough so that they will have a
slight amount of slack when the bridle is fully extended (Figure 8).
The head cable then pulls directly on the bridle and not on the wire
netting. The purpose of the wire trap front supports is to keep the
trap front netting from sagging, and to distribute any strain on the
netting over a wide area and thus prevent breaking the mesh.

TRANSPORTING THE TRAPS

The traps are transported on a two-wheeled flat bed trailer, with an
extended tongue (Figure 9A). Two lengths of 4 by 6 inch timber, each
six feet long, are fastened crosswise to the ends of the trailer to support
the traps. The trap is tied to the trailer with rope or wire. Figure 9B
shows a trap loaded on the trailer.

"When it is necessary to move a trap a short distance at the trapping
site, a sled is used (Figure 9C). This sled consists of two lengths of
2 by 12 inch lumber for runners, each about 12 feet long. Three-inch
angle iron was attached along the bottom and inside of the runners.
The runners were spaced about four feet apart and held rigidly by
sections of pipe welded between the pieces of angle iron. The trap
is supported on the sled with two-by-fours attached across the top at
each end of the wooden runners. A trap is easily rolled onto the sled
because the sled is so low. The sled is pulled by a bridle made of
quarter-inch wire rope. A heavy harness snap on the forward end of
the bridle hooks the sled to the rear of an automobile. Traps have been
easily moved as far as one mile with the sled. By using the sled rather
than the more expensive trailer for these short hauls, it was permissible
to leave the moving equipment at the fishing site permanently without
fear of loss from vandalism.

On one occasion, it was necessary to move a trap by water. Four
empty 50-gallou oil drums were attached to opposite sides of the trap,
with two on either end. The four drums provided ample buoyance
(Figure 9D). The trap was then towed with two outboard motor
powered skiffs. One boat was powered by a 16-horsepower motor, the
other by a 25-horsepower motor. This method is entirely satisfactory
for moving a trap downstream, across the river, or a short distance
upstream. Moving one upstream a long distance by this method would
have been difficult.



WIRE FYKE TRAPS



287





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288 CALIFX)RXIA FISII AND (iAME

OPERATING THE TRAPS
Placing Traps in the River

To c'Jd in i"()lliii<«- the tra|)s uj) and chnvn tlic l)aiik tlicy arr attachefl
to \\vc strands of No. 9 p-alvaiiizcd wire, Avliieh ai'e called runner wires.
Tlie ninner wires are wrapped around the trap before placing it into
operation. These wires are attached to tlie second and fourth frame
rings and to a stringer at the ])oint where the two cross. A man holds
each wire tight to keep the slack out of it while the rest of the crew
rolls the trap onto the wires, nntil the desired number of wraps is
made. The number of wraps will vary, depending upon the depth of
fishing anticipated and the heiglit of the river bank. Three or four are
ample on the Sacramento River. By having a man hold each of the
runner wires taut while they are rolled onto the trap, practically all
of the undesirable slack is eliminated. The direction of wrap must be
such tjiat the trap, when being rolled up the bank, is rolled onto the
wire.

After the runner wires have been attached, the trap is set on the
bank above the desired fishing spot, open end downstream. One end of
the head cable is then attached to a solid object on the bank, such as
a stump, tree, or post, about 100 to 150 feet upstream. The free ends
of the runner wires, coming ofif: the bottom of the trap, are then fas-
tened to strong stakes or trees on the bank, opposite the trap ring
where they are attached. One end of a quarter-inch wire rope known
as the pull cable is attached to the center ring with a clove hitch and
cable clips where a stringer crosses it. The free end of the pull cable
is attached to an automobile (or windlass, or whatever device is to be
used in pulling the trap up and down the bank). The slack is taken
out of the pull cable with the automobile, which is then slowly backed
towards the river. As the car backs, the trap is rolled over the bank,
Avith the cable kept tight. As the trap rolls down the bank, it unrolls
the runner wires and rolls up the pull cable. The car is continued to
be backed slowly and the trap allowed to roll to the water's edge. The
free end of the head cable is attached to the trap bridle, using cable
clips. The length of the head cable is quite important. If it is too short,
the trap will shift on the runner wires when being rolled up and down
the bank. If the head cable is too long, the weight of the cable, plus
the water resistance, will have a tendency to make the trap stand on
end. A head cable of 100 to 150 feet worked satisfactorily on the
Sacramento River. If it was desirable to fish the traps deeper, or farther
out in the river, the head cable was lengthened.

Adjusting the Door

When a trap is first put in the water, and as the w^ater level changes
during the season, it is usually necessary to adjust the door position
so that captured fish may be removed. The trap is adjusted so that
when the door is opened about one and one-half feet of water remains
in the trap for the fish to swim in. Figures lOA. lOB. and IOC show
a trap in a raised position, ready for the removal of fish. Adjustment
is made by rotating the trap in place until it is in the desired position.



WIRE FYKE TRAPS



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200 CALIFORNIA risil AXD fJAAIE

Such adjustments arc iiifi(l(> t)y hiking iij) oi- letting' out the runner
wires. A convenient method is lo use a large liook, such as a hay hook,
attached to a rope. The trap is hooked at one end, lifted until there is
enough slack in the runner wire, whicli is then let out or shortened
by the appropriate amount, fastened, and the hook removed. The oper-
ation is then repeated at the other end of the trap. This job usually
requires two men on the bank, assisted by a man in a boat. If, for
exami)le, the adjustment refjuires shifting the trap several feet or one-
half turn, it is necessary to let out or haul in the pull cable accordingly,
by iiioxiiiy the aiitdiiiobile.

Fishing Sites

The traps were usually fished with the to])s between six inches and
one foot under the water surface and as close to a steep bank as pos-
sible. The}' were most successful in capturing fish when fishing this
top 10 feet of the river near the shore. Various positions farther out
in the river were tried, but were definitely not as productive, particu-
larly in capturing steelhead. Also, the increased water velocities en-
countered away from the bank proved unduly harmful to the captured
fish. However, the farther away from a bank the traps were fished, the
deeper they were in the water. Xo attempts were made to fish the traps
at any distance from shore, at any depth other than at the bottom of
the river.

The most desirable fishing sites for all species captured were on the
deep side of the river, where the bank was almost vertical. The high
vertical bank also allowed the traps to be fished through considerable
fluctuation in water level. Particularly good fishing areas were those
where the river first straightened out after making a sharp curve.
Several excellent trap locations were also available along fairly straight
stretches of river, but always on the swifter, deeper side. One fishing
site along a particularly brushy shore line was exceptionally good for
catching large numbers of steelhead, but not salmon. At the beginning
of the trapping at Fremont Weir in 1951, the traps were shifted con-
tinuously until enough sites which consistently produced good catches
were found. From year to year, the river channel has changed, necessi-
tating a relocation of a few fishing sites. Often just a simple movement
of a trap 10 feet upstream or downstream has increased the catches
to the desired level.

Tug boats traveling between Sacramento and Colusa pass this section
of the Sacramento River at all hours of the day and night. Five-gallon
cans painted red were used as buoys to mark the traps for the benefit
of boat traffic and sport fishermen along the bank.

Safety Cables

There was always the possibility that the automobile brakes might
not hold, or that the pull cable might snap. A safety cable was devised
to keep the trap from rolling onto the tagging skiff and the tagging
personnel, if such an accident occurred.

One end of the safety cable is attached to the trap at the center
frame ring in the same manner as the pull cable, and the other end is
fastened to a strong tree or a post on the bank. It is tied so that when
fully extended the trap will be fishing at the proper depth. This fasten-
ing is not undone during normal fishing operations. Sufficient surplus



WIRE FYKE TRAPS 291

cable is kept to allow the trap to shift in a vertical direction as the
water level changes during the season.

The safety cable plays in and out, off the top of the trap, in the
same manner as the pull cable. When the trap is rolled up the bank
to remove fish, the safety cable is also hauled in to keep it from tangling
with the pull cable. As soon as the trap is in position to remove the
fish, the safety cable is pulled tight and tied securely to the tree, stump,
or post.

After the fish have been removed and the trap has been cleaned and
inspected for holes, and any necessary repairs have been made (clean-
ing leaves and debris off the traps is accomplished quite easily by
slapping the wire webbing with a paddle or small wooden club), the
skiff is moved away from the trap. The safety cable is untied and the
automobile driver then backs up, lowering the trap by its own weight.
The safety cable plays out on its own until it tightens and stops the
trap at the desired depth. The pull cable then goes slack and the driver
disconnects it from the auto and ties it to a tree or post.

Because of the high, steep banks along this section of the Sacra-
mento River, it was usually impossible for the driver of the automobile
pulling the trap or replacing it in the water to see the men in the
tagging skiff or to hear their shouted instructions. A safe procedure
was to have a man in the boat and a man standing on the bank, where
he could see and direct both the skiff and the automobile.

Snatch Blocks

To facilitate rolling the traps in and out of the water, six-inch steel
snatch blocks were used. These pulleys were carried from trap to trap
during the day's tagging. The suspended snatch blocks prevented the
pull cable from cutting into the bank, with a resulting friction that
would wear the cable and hamper the trap movement. If the cable had
cut into the bank the traps would often not roll into the water on their
own accord. When trees were handy, the snatch block was suspended
from one of them. If no trees were available, a strong post was set in
the bank and the pulley secured to it. In some instances, a steel tripod
was used in conjunction with a post, to keep the cable clear of the
ground. The tripods were made of three-inch angle iron, with 5-foot
long legs.

Fishing Operations

After a night's fishing, the trap should be rolled up the bank very
slowly. If it is apparent that there is a large catch, overcrowding of
the fish is avoided by stopping the trap while it Is fairly deep in the
water. Fish can then be dipped out and tagged until they are fairly
well thinned out. The trap can then be rolled a little farther up the
bank and the process repeated.

If the trap is rolled too far or too fast, there is likely to be a panic
during which even medium-sized fish may injure themselves by swim-
ming into the mesh at great speed. With the possible exception of shad,
the only panicking of fish was that caused by raising the trap and the
resulting confinement of the fish in shallow water. If the trap is moved
slowly, the fish remain relatively quiet. It is usually good technique to
remove the larger fish and any more active "trouble makers" as soon
as possible.



L*I»'J CALIFOIJXIA FISH AND GAME

SPECIES OF FISHES CAPTURED

Steelhead Trout

Adult stoplhead migrato into the npjioi- Sacramento River dui-inj;'
most months of the year. Tlie first mij^rants each season ])ass the
trappintr area in mid-June, and tlic run is continuous until the middle
(if tli(> followiufr ]\Iarch. Very few, if any, adult steelhead move from
the Delta into the upper Sacramento iiiver between the middle of
]\Iarch and the middle of June. The hulk of the run passes the trappinp-
area between eai'ly Au<i"ust and late Xovemhei'. The ])e;ik of the i-nn
usually occurs near the end of September.

Sacramento River steelhead are genei-ally smaller in size than those
found in California's coastal streams, usually averaging between three
and six ])onnds, with fish up to eight pounds being common. Steelhead
over 13 pounds are rare in the Sacramento River.

The size of the steelhead run has varied between 15,000 and 31,500
during the past four years.

The seven traps fished at Fremont AYeir Avere very effective in cap-


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