The Smolt Spy

Smolt spy fisheries monitoring camera system

The Smolt Spy is FISHBIO’s first fully custom video monitoring system that can be configured for a variety of applications to monitor juvenile and adult fish. The system consists of high-definition Internet Protocol (IP) digital cameras that are operated with a computer and software, and have much higher resolution than the closed-circuit television (CCTV) security cameras that are often used for monitoring. The cameras use wide-angle lenses to help eliminate blind spots, and are paired with infrared lights that minimize disturbance to fish. The biggest advantage of the Smolt Spy system is the incorporation of motion-detection software, which records video of passing fish as small as 50 mm and greatly reduces the amount of video to review. Digital videos are sent from the cameras to a connected computer and can be saved to portable hard drives, which allows the system to operate largely unattended. Hard drives are periodically replaced and the videos can be reviewed by a trained fisheries technician to quickly identify and count passing fish.

The original Smolt Spy prototype was designed and built for the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada to monitor juvenile Lahontan cutthroat trout in Mahogany Creek. Since then, we have developed several variations of this system to monitor both juvenile and adult fish, including installing a system with a fish-counting weir to count adult Chinook salmon moving upstream and downstream in the Tuolumne River. This setup used an overhead camera to count fish moving through a square passageway, and two underwater side cameras to identify fish species and physical attributes. We have custom-fabricated a video monitoring system with four cameras encased in fiberglass housings to fit within an existing fish ladder on the Calaveras River, and have also built a Smolt Spy to monitor juvenile steelhead moving into a surface fish collector at Los Padres Reservoir on the Carmel River. The Smolt Spy system provides an effective means to passively count small and large fish, and eliminates the need to trap and handle sensitive species. Contact us to find out if this technology is a good fit for your project!

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