What’s a Pound Net?

A pound net (often called a fish trap) is a zero carbon, low maintenance commercial fishing strategy with potential for efficient hatchery harvest and significant reductions in bycatch mortality. Pound net traps were used by Native Americans of the region prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 1800s. Noting the incredible efficiency of Native traps, European settlers modified the gear-type, making pound nets a destructive force within unregulated West Coast salmon fisheries from the 1880s through the 1930s. Pound Net traps were eventually banned in various states from the 1930s-1950s due to the political might of the gillnetters.

A pound net trap consists of a series of pilings and attached web fences extending from the high-water mark to the river or estuary bottom. Traps funnel returning adult salmon from the shoreline “lead” (situated perpendicular to shore) to a maze of walls and compartments (the “heart” and “tunnel”) in which they cannot escape. In contrast to conventional commercial fishing gears which entangle the teeth and/or gills of all captured fishes (resulting in physical damage and high rates of mortality), pound net traps passively corral migrating salmon into a rectangular chamber called the “spiller”. All trapped fish are enabled to swim freely and in comfort prior to initiation of the sorting process. With little to no air exposure or handling by fishermen, targeted stocks and bycatch can be safely sorted in a low-impact manner. This process (when regulated and used to achieve conservation and harvest goals) enables high-quality harvest of targeted stocks and release of all bycatch unharmed.

This project received funding under award NA17NMF4720255 from NOAA Fisheries Service, in cooperation with
the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of Wild Fish Conservancy and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA Fisheries.