News & Stories

  • There is ONE steelhead left in Alameda Creek, California

    February 12, 2019

    Red Green and Blue By Dan Bacher

    Alameda Creek, the largest local watershed in Alameda County and the Bay Area, once hosted big runs of steelhead and Chinook steelhead. However, dams, other barriers and water diversions decimated these runs.

    Here is the latest press release on the great work by the Alameda Creek Alliance and Jeff Miller to restore these magnificent fish to the creek:

    Fremont, CA – Alameda Creek Alliance volunteers last week helped fish biologists from the East Bay Regional Park District capture and radio tag a single adult steelhead trout in lower Alameda Creek below the BART weir, an impassable concrete barrier that blocks fish spawning migration.

    On February 5, Park District biologists attached a radio transmitter to a 25” female steelhead and moved her upstream into lower Niles Canyon. This steelhead migrated into the Stonybrook Creek tributary, where she was observed last week spawning with native rainbow trout.

    The female steelhead has been nicknamed “Anna,” a reference to the anadromous, or migratory, life cycle of steelhead. “Anadromous” derives from Greek words meaning “up running.” Steelhead trout and rainbow trout are different forms of the same species. Steelhead have migrated from the fresh water streams of their birth to the ocean, whereas the smaller rainbow trout spend their entire life cycle in fresh water.

    Four adult steelhead were seen at the BART weir barrier on February 3 but only one steelhead was captured on February 5. A 29” chinook salmon was also captured, likely of hatchery origin.

    The Park District captures and radio tags steelhead to track their upstream migration. The Alameda County Water District and California Department of Fish and Wildlife helped coordinate the fish capture and tagging. Trout Unlimited, South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition and Diablo Valley Fly Fishers also provided volunteers.

    The Park District captures and radio tags steelhead to track their upstream migration. The Alameda County Water District and California Department of Fish and Wildlife helped coordinate the fish capture and tagging. Trout Unlimited, South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition and Diablo Valley Fly Fishers also provided volunteers.

    Local, state and federal agencies have been working on multiple projects to restore steelhead trout to Alameda Creek. The Alameda County Water District and Alameda County Flood Control District will begin construction this summer on a critical fish ladder that will allow steelhead to migrate past the BART weir barrier and an adjacent inflatable rubber dam used for water supply operations. It will take three years to complete construction for this complex fish passage facility. The ACWD recently completed construction of another fish ladder at a second inflatable rubber dam one mile upstream in the flood control channel.

    In 2018 the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission finished rebuilding the seismically-challenged Calaveras Dam in the upper Alameda Creek watershed. The new reservoir will be operated with cold water releases in the summer to help steelhead and trout rear downstream of the dam. The SFPUC also recently finished construction of a new fish ladder and fish screens at the associated Alameda Diversion Dam in upper Alameda Creek. This diversion dam will be operated to bypass much more of the winter and spring.

    “Anna, our anadromous trout, was in a hurry to spawn and she quickly found good habitat in a Niles Canyon tributary and a willing mate among the native rainbow trout population there,” said Jeff Miller, director of the Alameda Creek Alliance. “We’ve had a handful of adult steelhead attempt to migrate up lower Alameda Creek each of the last four winters, but only a few have gotten a helping hand to suitable spawning grounds.”

    “Construction begins this summer on a fish ladder at the BART weir, which within three years will allow salmon and steelhead to migrate upstream on their own to reach suitable spawning areas in the Alameda Creek watershed,” said Miller. “Half a century after they were eliminated, we’re on the brink of restoring a wild steelhead spawning population in the high flows in upper Alameda Creek. The enhanced stream flows will help migratory fish get further upstream to better habitat.

    Alameda Creek is becoming an urban stream success story after decades of restoration efforts. Since steelhead trout in the Bay Area were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1997, a consortium of organizations and agencies has cooperated on restoration projects to allow migratory fish to reach spawning habitat in upper Alameda Creek, including dam removals and construction of fish ladders and fish screens.

    Seventeen fish passage projects have been completed in the watershed since 2001. Water agencies are also working on projects to improve stream flows and restore stream and riparian habitat along Alameda Creek and its tributaries. These restoration projects will make up to 20 miles of Alameda Creek and its tributaries accessible to ocean-run fish for the first time in over half a century.

    Alameda Creek is considered an ‘anchor watershed’ for steelhead, since it has regional significance for restoration of the threatened trout to the entire Bay Area. The watershed drains an area of about 680 square miles and once supported populations of native steelhead trout and salmon. Steelhead, salmon and lamprey are anadromous fish, living out their adult lives in the ocean and migrating up fresh water streams and rivers to spawn and rear their young.

    Construction of dams, water diversions, modifications to the Alameda Creek streambed, and urbanization made it impossible for steelhead to migrate upstream, eliminated access to suitable spawning areas, and reduced suitable habitat for cold-water fish.

    The Alameda Creek Alliance is a 2,000-member strong community watershed group, dedicated to protecting and restoring the natural ecosystems of the Alameda Creek watershed. The Alameda Creek Alliance has been working to restore steelhead trout to the Alameda Creek watershed since 1997. 

    Read the article at the source »

  • Status of Chinook Salmon being reviewed, fishing closed on Klamath, Trinity rivers

    February 12, 2019

    Siskiyou Daily News

    The California Fish and Game Commission last week took action that could result in Upper Klamath-Trinity River Spring Chinook Salmon eventually being listed as endangered and approved fishing closures on parts of the Klamath and Trinity rivers to protect the salmon until a decision can be made on their status.

    The commission accepted a petition to list the salmon as endangered, setting into motion a status review to be completed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to a CDFW press release.

    The petitioners, the Karuk Tribe and Salmon River Restoration Council, submitted information suggesting declining population trends and a low abundance, making this stock of salmon vulnerable to extinction, the release states. The commission action results in Spring Chinook Salmon being designated as a Candidate Species under the California Endangered Species Act, which provides Candidate Species the same protections as species listed as endangered and threatened under CESA.

    CDFW also requested the commission adopt emergency fishing regulations necessary to reconcile them with the CESA protections. CDFW will also be in consultation with federal regulatory bodies concerning ocean fishing regulations.

    Acceptance of the petition triggers a one-year status review by CDFW to determine if a CESA listing by the commission may be warranted, according to the release.

    “CDFW, after review of the best scientific information available, will make a recommendation to the commission on whether to list Spring Chinook Salmon as either endangered or threatened, or that listing is not warranted at this time,” the release states.

    The following inland salmon fishing closures were approved by the commission through the emergency regulations:

    Klamath River main stem from the mouth of the river to Iron Gate dam. Closed to salmon fishing from the anticipated effective date of Feb. 22 (subject to approval from the Office of Administrative Law) to Aug. 14.

    Trinity River main stem from its confluence to the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat. Closed to salmon fishing from the anticipated effective date of Feb. 22 to Aug. 31.

    Trinity River main stem from upstream of the Highway 299 Bridge at Cedar Flat to Old Lewiston Bridge. Closed to salmon fishing from the anticipated effective date of Feb. 22 to Oct. 15.

    Fishing for Upper Klamath-Trinity River Fall Chinook Salmon will be allowed in these areas after the closure dates listed above, the release states. Quotas and bag and possession limits for Fall Chinook Salmon will be adopted by the commission in May of this year.

    Steelhead fishing will be allowed year-round with normal bag and possession limits, according to the CDFW.

    Along with its adoption of the emergency regulations, the commission also directed CDFW to work with stakeholders, including affected counties, fishing organizations, tribes and conservation groups, to investigate options to allow some Spring Chinook Salmon fishing in 2019.

    Under Section of 2084 of Fish and Game Code, the commission can consider hook-and-line recreational fishing on a Candidate Species, according to the release.

    CDFW will present the results of that stakeholder collaboration and potential options using Section 2084 at the commission’s next public meeting, which will be held April 17 in Santa Monica.

    The public may keep track of the quota status of open and closed sections of the Klamath and Trinity rivers by calling the information hotline at (800) 564-6479.

    Additional information can be found in the “2018-2019 California Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations” and the “2018-2019 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations.”

    The full commission agenda, supporting information and a schedule of upcoming meetings are available at An archived video will also be available in coming days.

    Read the article at the source »

  • Marin coho see best spawning season in 12 years; record steelhead season forecast

    February 9, 2019

    Marin Independent Journal By Will Houston

    Nearly 12 years have passed since this many coho salmon swam up the Lagunitas Creek watershed to spawn.

    By the end of January, surveyors found 332 redds, or salmon egg nests, and about 664 adult coho in the watershed — the highest count since the winter of 2007-08. While this count is still well below the recovery target of 1,600 redds needed to bring the species out of its endangered classification, researchers are optimistic with the recent trend.

    “This run was 10 percent larger than their parents’ generation, 70 percent larger than their grandparents’, and 40 percent larger than the run of their great-grandparents’ (back in 2009-10),” Marin Municipal Water District ecologist Eric Ettlinger wrote in an update. “Such sustained generational growth is a very hopeful sign for the population.”

    The Lagunitas Creek watershed alone supports about 20 percent of the wild coho runs between Monterey Bay and Fort Bragg. Decades of habitat degradation, development and dams have depleted the population. Both the state and federal governments recognize the Lagunitas coho salmon as an endangered species.

    A 2017 study by the U.C. Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and the environmental organization California Trout on California’s salmon species listed the Lagunitas coho as being at critical risk of extinction — the highest risk category next to extinction — within the next 50 years without “significantly increased intervention and protection of watersheds.”

    Environmental advocates and fisheries biologists are hoping ongoing flood plain and habitat restoration projects in the watershed will help tip the balance in the coho’s favor.

    Lost data

    This year’s Lagunitas Creek spawning data isn’t a complete picture. The recent federal government shutdown resulted in irretrievable coho spawning data being lost.

    Michael Reichmuth is a National Park Service fish biologist who helps survey coho and steelhead in the Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Before their surveying was cut short in late December by the shutdown, Reichmuth and his colleagues counted 107 adult coho and 51 redds in Lagunitas Creek’s largest tributary, Olema Creek.

    Reichmuth said they’re used to seeing around a dozen to 20 adults in the river by that time. Reichmuth said they didn’t see any new coho when they surveyed after the shutdown, but he guessed that the final numbers were double of what they found in December.

    National Park Service surveyors were able to get some help from California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials on surveying Redwood Creek. The two agencies have been releasing coho that were raised in captivity into the creek in the hopes that it might help rebound the petering population. This is the last year these releases will take place. So far, Reichmuth said these efforts have been successful, but that they will continue to monitor.

    About 30 coho redds were counted in the creek and about 88 adults, though some of the adult counts may have been duplicates, he said.

    In their surveys of other Lagunitas tributaries in the San Geronimo Creek watershed, Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN, surveyors found more nests than usual.

    SPAWN’s watershed biologist Prestron Brown said they found 39 redds in two San Geronimo tributaries — the highest count since 2005. Another 79 redds were counted in San Geronimo creek itself — the highest count since 2006.

    “So long as we can keep development low and habitat restoration going, we’ll see these trends continue,” Brown said.

    Steelhead runs

    Steelhead are projected to have their largest run on record this year in Lagunitas Creek, with 65 redds counted so far — a record for January, according to Ettlinger. But counting the fish isn’t so easy, Ettlinger said.

    “Even though they can be up to 3 feet long, they’re cryptic, prefer to spawn in fast water, and don’t stay on their redds very long,” Ettlinger wrote. “Your best bet for catching a glimpse of one is as they jump or swim through shallow water.”

    In the Pine Gulch Creek and Redwood Creek where park biologists survey for steelhead, Reichmuth said they haven’t seen record numbers so far, but that this is the time of year when spawning ramps up.

    “Hopefully we don’t have another shutdown so we can keep going out there,” Reichmuth said. “That way we can at least get a good estimate on the steelhead numbers this year.”

    Coho counts

    Coho salmon redds and adults counted in the Lagunitas Creek watershed from the winters of 1997 through 2019. Adult salmon counts are estimated as double the redd count.

    Read the article at the source »

  • Big showing of American River steelhead excites anglers

    February 5, 2019

    Stockton Record By Dan Bacher

    Large numbers of adult steelhead continue to surge into the American River, the crown jewel of the Sacramento metropolitan area, attracting plenty of anglers in the quest to hook these hard-fighting fish.

    The Nimbus Fish Hatchery has trapped a total of 1,843 steelhead to date, the best showing of fish since 2013. These fish include 933 adult males, 826 adult females, 43 half-pounder males, 26 half-pounder females, four wild adult males and 11 wild adult females, reported Greg Ferguson at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery.

    “We’ve taken a total of 870,814 eggs to date,” he said. “During our latest spawn on (January 29), we spawned 24 females and 47 males.”

    With fish and eggs abundant this year, the hatchery staff foresees no problem meeting its production goal of 430,000 steelhead smolts for release in 2020.

    Most of the steelhead showing in the river now are in the seven- to 11-pound. range, with an occasional larger fish showing. The big numbers of steelhead are also drawing crowds of anglers some days to fish the river. That was the case when Doug MacPherson of Sacramento and I fished with Jerry Lampkin of TNG Motor Sports Guide Service in his drift boat from Sailor Bar to Sunrise on January 29.

    “We caught and released two adult steelhead while pulling Hot Shots yesterday,” Lampkin said before our trip. “Craig Newton, the owner of Willfish Tackle in Auburn. hooked an eight-pounder, while Jim Palmus landed a 29-incher.”

    We had five takedowns from steelhead while back trolling with Hot Shots and throwing Little Cleo spoons, but none of the fish stayed on the hook.

    We saw a good number of hook-ups, with some fish landed and many fish lost by the crowd of anglers fishing the river.

    That was the biggest amount of anglers on the river that I’ve seen since 2013, an epic year for steelhead. Fishing buddy Rodney Fagundes and I had one of our best trips that January, hooking 14 fish and landing and releasing 9 steelhead between the two of us one day while using plugs and Little Cleos.

    With the large numbers of fish now showing, we can expect to see steelhead at least into the end of March and probably into mid-April. Information: (530) 320-0994.

    Read the article at the source »

  • Tracking the trout: East Bay biologists, volunteers give spawning fish a leg up/Fish blocked for decades by concrete structure get a lift upstream

    February 5, 2019

    San Jose Mercury News By Joseph Geha

    FREMONT — Over the roar of BART trains speeding along tracks overhead, and the rushing waters of Alameda Creek, it was almost hard to hear the screams of joy let out by a group of people in the waterway when they saw a silvery fish flash along the water line.

    It was a sign that the group — a mishmash of fisheries biologists, preservationists and volunteers who waded into the Alameda Creek Flood Control Channel in Fremont Tuesday to catch, tag, and transport steelhead trout upstream — had not come in vain.

    “I don’t know if it was a steelhead, it was a sizeable fish,” said Joe Sullivan, the fisheries program director for East Bay Regional Park District, who was waist-high in the channel.

    “It skirted up and around our seine,” he said.

    For many years, biologists and staffers from the park district, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the nonprofit Alameda Creek Alliance, as well as volunteers, come to this lower creek area every winter when conditions are right for migratory fish spawning.

    For decades, the steelhead trout and Chinook salmon trying to complete their instinct-driven trip upstream have been blocked by an impassable concrete structure known as the BART weir, which supports the trains overhead.

    When the group catches the fish, both of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, they can radio tag it to study its migration, and release it upstream where the fish can meet others like it and mate.

    “The steelhead have this dramatic, epic lifecycle,” said Jeff Miller, the director of the Alameda Creek Alliance, who was at the creekside.

    “They go out, they make this Homeric odyssey around the Pacific. They dodge orcas, they dodge fisherman, they dodge seals and sea lions, then they have to fight their way upstream, against these flows, then we put all these barriers in the way they have to get past,” he said.

    “We’re just trying to make it so it’s as accommodating as possible for these migratory fish.”

    By midday Tuesday, the group’s haul included just one steelhead trout, but that’s “better than nothing,” Sullivan said.

    “It’s just exciting to see them at all come back to the system,” he said. Before 2017, a steelhead hadn’t been spotted in the lower creek since 2008. But for the past three years, they’ve been seen and captured to be relocated.

    His hope is that the group will be able to do more captures and relocations this year through March and help boost the trout population upstream.

    Within a few years, however, this capturing and relocation may not be necessary as the Alameda County Water District, in conjunction with other public agencies, is investing nearly $70 million in upgrading or replacing rubber dams and building fish ladders and screens to allow the fish to bypass the multiple barriers in the creek.

    Fish ladders are essentially a series of pools that step up gradually around a rubber dam or other barrier. The water district has nearly completed a ladder upstream, close to Mission Boulevard. Construction will start this summer on a ladder to get around the BART weir and the rubber dam just beyond it.

    Officials said the project will be completed by about spring 2022, after which the trout and salmon should be able to make their way upstream in a more natural fashion.

    “It is kind of an interagency, coordinated effort … to ultimately help enhance the population of steelhead,” said Evan Buckland, the water district’s supply supervisor.

    Miller said the trout are a good indicator of how healthy the region’s water system is.

    “If we can keep the creek clean enough and healthy enough for these fish, we’re doing a good job of taking care of the ecosystem,” he said.

    Read the article at the source »