Salmon season forecast shows ‘slightly improved’ prospects
March 4, 2019
Eureka Times Standard by Philip Santos
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced California’s 2019 ocean salmon fishing season is looking “slightly better than last year’s,” in a statement released Friday.
According to the statement, ocean abundance projections put estimates for Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon at 379,000 adult salmon, with Klamath River fall Chinook coming in at 274,000.
Chenchen Shen, an environmental scientist with the CDFW Ocean Salmon Project, said she believes there “likely will be a season.”
“It depends on how the council decides,” she said. “There is some good news, and ocean abundance levels are higher than last year.”
Shen said the situation is a bit complicated. Although the ocean abundance projections are looking better than last year, for the most part, both Klamath River fall Chinook and Sacramento River fall Chinook are in an “overfished status.”
The reason both types of Chinook are in an “overfished status” is due to low “spawning escapement” for the past several years, meaning most fish made it to spawning. A three-year geometric mean is used to determine current escapement levels, and if the number falls below what the minimum escapement threshold is, the fish is labeled as overfished.
Shen said the minimum escapement level for Klamath River fall Chinook was about 41,000, with over 50,000 returning last year. Next year, the escapement level would have to be about 63,000 if the Klamath River fall Chinook are to move out of the overfished status.
Dave Bitts, a local commercial fisherman, said the numbers looked “a little bit scant.”
“It should be enough for people to have some success fishing and still put enough in the river,” he said. “It’s far from great … we start to get excited if predictions are around a half million or more.”
The numbers for Sacramento River fall Chinook, which Bitts called the “bread-and-butter stock,” are much better than the previous year, he noted. Last year there were 50,000 to 70,000 available to catch.
“70,000 fish doesn’t go very far,” he said.
If the forecast is accurate, he said, there could be as many as 200,000 Sacramento River fall Chinook for all parties to catch this year.
Aaron Newman, another local commercial fisherman, said he feels like the projections are a bit lower than they should be and worries they might lead to a shorter season.
“I hope things work out good this summer for a good season,” he said.
Steelhead, salmon thriving in Northern California
February 21, 2019
The Grass Valley Union by Denis Peirce
Over the past ten days the Feather River Hatchery has been planting juvenile steelhead into the Feather River. This year the hatchery produced 460,000 fish for planting in the river and it took over a week with three trucks to get them all down to the Boyd's Pump launch ramp. The ramp at Boyd's Pump is a few miles below the mouth of the Yuba River and this year the conditions for planting the steelhead have been ideal.
The worst case scenario is low clear water where predators can find concentrations of small fish in shallow water. In these conditions both the birds as well as the stripers can devastate the juveniles as they slowly work their way down river. This year's conditions were perfect.
Although the Feather has had modest flows as Lake Oroville is being refilled, the Yuba has been running high and dirty. At the start of the fish releases the Yuba was up above the 3,000 cubic feet per second level which is double the 1,500 level we had been seeing. By the 14th the heavy rains spiked the flows above 21,000 cubic feet per second and since then the flows have gradually dropped back to the 4,500 level. In addition to the water depth, the speed of the current probably has some of them into the delta already. The other factor is the silt in the water so that the juveniles can't be seen.
It is these same conditions on the Sacramento River in January 2016 when the steelhead were released from the Coleman Hatchery into the Sacramento River which are credited with the record return of 10,000 fish to that facility this past fall. The Coleman Hatchery releases 600,000 steelhead in a good year where as the Feather River Hatchery aims for 400,000. All other conditions being equal, autumn of 2021 should be a banner year on the Feather for steelhead fishing.
The Feather River Hatchery releases steelhead at this time each year to go in and maintain the facility for the next generation of fish that are currently in the incubators. The hatchery crew began spawning steelhead the last week of December and finished on Feb. 1. This year's take was just below 1,400,000 eggs. This is projected to produce more than the 400,000 fish target for release in February of 2020.
For the salmon population, the fall of 2018 was a good year. Close to 30,000 salmon were processed through the hatchery. This is way above what is needed to plant in the Feather River. This year all of the inland lake "land locked" salmon in California are coming from the Feather River Hatchery. Some of the eggs will be moved to the Silverado facility in the Napa Valley to be raised until it is time to plant the lakes next fall.
Since the end of the drought the Sacramento Valley salmon and steelhead have bounced back very nicely.
With all of the wet weather we have had, fishing locally has not been stellar. The rivers have been high and muddy at the lower elevations and up the hill skiing is the order of the day. The best location for boat anglers has been Bullards Bar. The lower end of the lake has relatively clean water. The kokanee will bite when you find them. Guides report good success when you have the correct combination of speed, depth and color. Anglers not getting the right combination are struggling.
The spotted bass at Bullards Bar are getting close to spawning. They are close to the bank in 12 to 15 feet of water. A recent report from some bass anglers referenced some good sized spots.
Over the hill at Pyramid Lake, Nevada, this year has been producing fewer but larger cutthroat trout. The Truckee River has been putting dirty water into the south end. Many of the anglers have been staying away from the murky water in the south and fishing the middle and north end. The problem recently has been getting over the hill on I-80.
In the near future the water levels on the Feather and the Sacramento Rivers will be dropping. Anglers have been seeing sturgeon on the move in both rivers. I expect we will have a good sturgeon fishing as the water conditions improve.
Fishing the North Coast: Fall Klamath king returns were up in 2018
February 20, 2019
Eureka Times Standard By Kenny Priest
Last fall produced some of the best king salmon fishing on both the Klamath and Trinity Rivers in recent memory, and the preliminary number of returning kings seem to reflect just that. While we’re still not back up to average runs sizes, we’re headed in the right direction. The CDFW predicted a river run size of 91,873 in 2018, and they were nearly spot on. According to the “Review of 2018 Ocean Salmon Fisheries” document, recently released by the PFMC, preliminary postseason river returns showed 92,293 adults returned.
Considering where we were in 2016 when just 27,353 adults returned, prompting a full fall-run closure in 2017, I’d say the numbers are going the right way. On an average year, we’ll see right around 122,000 adult kings return to the basin. So, we’ve got a little ways to go before the stocks are rebuilt completely.
“The 2018 Klamath fall chinook returns were slightly below average and the number of jacks returning also fell below long-term average,” said Wade Sinnen, Senior Environmental Scientist on the Klamath/Trinity Rivers. In 2018, only 11,114 jacks, or two-year-old salmon, returned.
During the previous ten years, the average number of returning jacks was roughly 22,600. The real bright spot according to Sinnen was the number of returning three-year-old fish. “These fish are part of the 2015 brood year, which made a good showing last year as two-year-old. This brood will translate to a decent preseason abundance forecast of age four fish this year.”
The bottom line of low jack counts is next year’s adult return may not be as robust, and therefore a smaller recreational quota for the whole basin. “In terms of fishing opportunity this coming year, it’s too early to say for sure,” said Sinnen. “We will know more after the Ocean Salmon Information meeting in Santa Rosa. However, I do not expect a large in-river quota based on past runs of the magnitude we experienced this past year.”
While the jack count was low, most of the information coming out of the report was positive for the basin. The number of natural area spawners was 53,624 adults, which exceeded the preseason expectation of 40,700. However, the stock is still in “overfished” status as escapement was not met the previous three seasons. The estimated hatchery return was 18,564 adults for the basin.
Spawning escapement to the upper Klamath River tributaries (Salmon, Scott, and Shasta Rivers), where spawning was only minimally affected by hatchery strays, totaled 21,109 adults. The Shasta River has historically been the most important Chinook salmon spawning stream in the upper Klamath River, supporting a spawning escapement of 27,600 adults as recently as 2012 and 63,700 in 1935. The escapement in 2018 to the Shasta River was 18,673 adults. Escapement to the Salmon and Scott Rivers was 1,228 and 1,208 adults, respectively.
According to the report, the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes shared a federally-reserved right of 50 percent (18,122) of the available harvest surplus of adult Klamath fall Chinook. Tribal adult harvest was 14,769 (Yurok: 12,444 adults; Hoopa Valley: 2,325 adults), which was 81 percent of the tribal allocation.
Coho comeback in West Marin is a welcome sight
February 17, 2019
Marin Independent Journal by Marin IJ Editorial Board
Marin’s struggling population of coho salmon is staging an impressive comeback.
Fish counters are reporting that the number of the salmon seen making their way back up the Lagunitas Creek watershed to spawn hit a 12-year high.
The creek has been the host of about 20 percent of the wild coho runs between Monterey Bay and Fort Bragg.
There are many factors responsible for the comeback, but the return of rainy weather has been one of them, providing the fish with enough water to return to their natal streams to spawn.
Other factors include improved ocean fisheries that have limited commercial fishing, many years of work to restore West Marin creek habitat and a greater public awareness of the need to protect the environment. That includes not only protecting the redds — or nests of salmon eggs — so that young salmon have a chance to survive and grow, but also to make it easier for them to make their remarkable trip to the ocean and return.
From counts taken over the past several years, those initiatives are paying off.
West Marin’s creeks have been identified as historic breeding grounds for the West Coast’s salmon population. And in recent years, a lot of effort — and public dollars — have gone into restoring habitat and removing man-made impediments.
Also, there is a growing awareness of the need to protect the environment from pollution, including the dumping of debris along the creek.
The county has also instituted stronger building restrictions aimed at protecting the creek; however, the extent of those protections — particularly in San Geronimo Valley — are still the source of local debate and a legal battle.
It is unlikely that the area will ever return to the number of salmon found in the creeks before the construction of Alpine Dam in 1918 and Peters Dam in 1953. Today’s numbers are likely a fraction of those, but the number of coho that are being counted today represents a rebound from recent years.
A UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout study in 2017 listed Lagunitas coho as being at a high risk of extinction.
Scientific alarm was so strong that some coho redds were recovered, hatched in a hatchery and re-planted to help save the local population. Conducted by the National Park Service, scientists say that so far, their efforts have proven successful.
One of the problems with local counts is they were interrupted by the monthlong federal shutdown.
That’s going to leave an unfortunate gap in the counts, but still the numbers look a lot better than they did just a decade ago, for instance, when only 52 adult coho and 26 redds were counted in the Lagunitas Creek watershed.
Efforts to bring back the local coho population are far from over, but the numbers are headed in the right direction and that’s encouraging for support for future initiatives.
CDFW to host public meeting on ocean salmon
February 13, 2019
Lake County News
NORTH COAST, Calif. – The California Department of Fish and Wildlife invites the public to attend its upcoming annual Salmon Information Meeting.
The meeting will feature the outlook for this year's sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries, in addition to a review of last year's salmon fisheries and spawning escapement.
The meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa.
Anglers are encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council, or PFMC, meetings in March and April.
The 2019 Salmon Information Meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to develop annual sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing recommendations.
The process involves collaborative negotiations with West Coast states, federal and tribal agencies, and stakeholders interested in salmon fishery management and conservation.
Public input will help California representatives develop a range of recommended season alternatives during the March 5-12 PFMC meeting in Vancouver, Wash.
The PFMC will finalize the recommended season dates at its April 9 to 16 meeting in Rohnert Park.
A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public comment is available on CDFW's ocean salmon Web page, www.wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon/preseason.