This ingenious device, assumed to be invented in China, catches fish as its wheel resolves in the current. This is passive fishing at its finest, the fish are not harmed and caught in holding pens so they can be easily sorted and stored until being processed. Fish wheels are set in strategic locations and are kept in place with anchors or posts. The trick of getting a very effective fish wheel is figuring the perfect number of rotations per minute for the location it is set up in.
Fish wheels were first used in the United States in 1829 and have been distributed mostly in the West to catch up to 30 million tons of fish. Because of this and their apparent destructive powers they were outlawed in 1929 in Washington and Oregon. Commercially, fish wheels are not used anymore but fish wheels are used by researchers to catch, sort, tag and release fish. Since fish are not harmed this makes a researchers job much easier. Slowly but surely fish wheels are making a comeback in commercial fishing since most alternative gears harm fish when catching them. The quantity of the harvest fish is first class since they are not damaged by netting and can be kept alive.
Fish wheels can be used for any type of fish and do not discriminate when catching fish. They became very popular in Alaska since they were introduced in 1900 and are still used today to catch fish. They are most popular in the winter when fishers are catching fish to feed their dogs. If you are interested in seeing a fish wheel there is one at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center and you can buy toy replicas in most tourist shops in Alaska.