News & Stories

  • Feather River Fish Hatchery fish ladder opens in Oroville

    September 18, 2017

    ChicoER by Risa Johnson

    Oroville >> Salmon have arrived at the Feather River Fish Hatchery.

    It wasn’t exactly hopping yet on Monday, but a patient few looked out at the Fish Barrier Dam in an effort to catch a glimpse of the first arrivals. It was pretty sporadic, as there here could be a few minutes between sightings, then suddenly five fish jumping in under a minute.

    Visitors didn’t have much luck spotting salmon in the fish ladder and viewing windows, though regulars were still excited.

    Paradise resident Michele Marquette said she comes to the hatchery every year when the fish ladder opens. She likes to come sketch, take her dog for a walk or bring family and people in town visiting.

    “It’s my favorite place in Butte County,” Marquette said.

    Michael Manges moved to Oroville from Nevada about two years ago. Not seeing any fish in the ladder, he wondered if the high releases in February may have thrown the fish off course.

    “It just seems the flooding and (dispersed) gravel may have affected how they do their migratory swim,” Manges said.

    Anna Kastner, manager of the Feather River Fish Hatchery, said the Oroville Dam crisis should not have affected fall-run chinook salmon, those that arrive in August or September. The fish spend most of their lives, two to five years, in the ocean and then return to where they were born to spawn.

    “We should be getting a full run for fall-run,” Kastner said.

    Fall-run chinook salmon, an endangered species, are artificially spawned at the hatchery, which is scheduled to produce nine million eggs this year. In order to reach that goal, workers will remove 15 million fall-run eggs, she said.

    The hatchery did see fewer spring-run chinook salmon this year – about a quarter of what is normal, Kastner said. The spring-run salmon come in April or June. Kastner said the spillway crisis could have been the cause, though small numbers were seen throughout the Central Valley.

    Currently the Thermalito Afterbay outlet is “loaded” with salmon, she said. It’s hard to know when they will all make their way to the hatchery — it could be tomorrow or this weekend just in time for the Salmon Festival.

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  • Salmon fishing on Feather River is red hot right now

    September 12, 2017

    Redding Record Searchlight

    Feather River king salmon

    Simply put, salmon fishing is red hot on the Feather River near Oroville now. We have been experiencing full boat limits for the last 10 days and there seems to be thousands of king salmon that have arrived to the upper reaches of the Feather River near Oroville. With lots of cold water racing down the Feather River, king salmon are having no problem finding their way to the spawning grounds. We have seen many other boats and bank anglers doing great as well. The great salmon fishing should last right up through October here. All salmon are large, averaging 16 to 24 pounds with several kings over 30 pounds.

    Sacramento River salmon

    Over on the Sacramento River, king salmon fishing is fair at best compared to the Feather River's salmon return. There are a few returning up the Sacramento River, but most of the salmon are small, 7 to 12 pounds, with the rare 20-pound salmon coming into the nets. The best fishing has been near the Barge Hole below the Coleman Hatchery at Anderson Balls Ferry. The Sacramento River salmon run could get better in the coming days but usually the run is full stride by mid-September. Drifting roe tipped with a puffball and bait button has been top technique with back trolling a sardine wrapped flatfish style plug a close second.

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  • Wood in the river? Leave it there, local biologist says

    September 8, 2017

    Eureka Times Standard By Will Houston (Dan Free)

    A large piece of wood lying across local river or stream may seem ripe for the taking as free firewood or building material, but removing it could cause problems at both ecological and economic levels.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Dan Free of Arcata said it is a common occurrence for people to take wood from local rivers without realizing that it provides important habitat for local wildlife.

    “I understand that a lot of people don’t put the two and two together,” Free said. “You see a nice piece of dry wood to access on the river bar. That is removing a valuable piece of future habitat for fish in doing that.

    “We all know that we have declining salmon populations here and a lot of people like to fish,” Free continued. “They might not be aware of what they’re doing when they do that.”

    This past rainy season has resulted in high flows, which has caused a large amount of this woody debris to enter local rivers and streams, especially compared to these past few years of drought, Free said.

    Free said these fallen trees and logs provide salmon, turtles, birds and other wildlife an array of benefits including safe habitat, shade and breeding grounds.

    Wood can also help scour the bottom of rivers and streams, creating deep, cold holding pools which are valuable to both migrating spawning salmon as well as young salmon. In drought years, these deep pools are critical for the survival and success of salmon, Free said.

    Removing this wood can also result in a state fine if taking the wood causes harm to fish and fish habitat, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan.

    Free said that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been put into river and stream restoration projects, which include artificially and naturally replenishing rivers with wood. But to his frustration, Free said that has not stopped some wood poachers.

    “We’ve actually had people illegally harvest wood from restoration projects that have been completed,” Free said. “We take the time and the money to go out there and put wood back into the stream and folks illegally go out there and cut that wood out and destroy our efforts.

    “It’s a really big deal in northern California and what people don’t realize is these things, as I spoke of before, not only do they provide habitat during good times, but they also help buffer the habitat during both droughts and flood,” he continued.

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  • Editorial: Thumbs up: Teaming up to save endangered salmon

    September 1, 2017

    Santa Rosa Press Democrat

    California’s commercial salmon season was delayed three months this year, the latest evidence that one of the West Coast’s most productive fisheries is in peril. With two long droughts in the past dozen years, salmon stocks have been decimated. And ongoing congressional efforts to divert water from fisheries to farms mean that a return to wet winters may not be enough. So we welcome the formation of a new coalition of public and private interests dedicated to restoring some of California’s most important salmon-producing rivers and tributaries.

    Under a partnership agreement signed this week, 21 organizations formed the Central Valley Salmon Habitat Partnership. The group is committed to developing and finding funding for habitat restoration efforts to protect and restore endangered salmon.

    Among the charter members are the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the state Department of Water Resources, Cal Trout, the Golden Gate Salmon Association and the Pacific Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “The successful recovery of any threatened species requires cooperation from many parties,” state Resources Secretary John Laird said. The future of California’s salmon fishing industry could ride on their success.

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  • California storms help salmon by reviving habitat

    August 24, 2017

    NOAA West Coast Region by Dan Free

    Heavy rains and runoff from last winter’s near-record snows in California have done more than end the state’s devastating drought, they have also helped rejuvenate salmon streams. Swollen rivers in recent months have deposited a renewed supply of what biologists call “woody debris,” an essential ingredient of healthy salmon habitat.

    For most people woody debris means fallen trees, logs, or broken limbs deposited in a stream and along its banks during a flood. For salmon it means hiding places, deep pools to grow, food, and perhaps even a jump-start for other vegetation beside rivers.
    “Of all the actions to improve salmon habitat, increasing woody debris is a priority action in all of our Endangered Species Act recovery plans for salmon,” said Dan Free, a fisheries biologist with NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region. “Stream restoration projects that increase woody debris import wood from elsewhere and are expensive, but the great thing about this resource is that it’s free and naturally introduced into the system.”

    Woody debris provides extensive benefits. Water rushing past logs scours river bottoms, creating deep holes that provide habitat for juvenile salmon to hide and grow. The wood also fosters growth of algae and insects for the fish to eat, helping them gain strength and size before migrating to the ocean.

    Sediment deposited by heavy river flows can also bury wood alongside streams, giving other vegetation a foothold. Buried logs retain water that other trees can access through their roots, enabling them to survive long dry spells. Groves of willows and cottonwoods and other riparian vegetation along the river bank often have logs buried beneath them that helped support their initial growth.

    Flood waters pick up woody debris by uprooting trees, snagging dead logs and stumps, and transporting old stores of wood from riparian areas. Eventually the wood settles in the streambed, on a gravel bar, or washes out to sea.

    The recent drought in California and the common practice of removing wood from streams has left many watersheds without much woody debris, especially in northern and central California. Fortunately, this year’s storms have reversed the trend by bringing a significant amount of woody debris to most streams.

    “With all the rain we’ve had, a lot of wood like old-growth timber, smaller limbs, and trees have come down the streams – which is a good thing,” said Free. “Unfortunately, some people may believe the wood deposited in our rivers and on gravel bars is available to supplement their next winter’s woodpile or may even remove larger wood for sale.”

    Both NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife highly discourage people from removing wood from streambeds, since it diminishes fish habitat quality and quantity.

    “Wood is inextricably linked to providing a healthy habitat for salmon” said Free. “Leaving this naturally occurring resource in the streams and on the gravel bars for fish so they can gain strength is one of the best things we can do for their habitat.”

    Read the article at the source »