Heads up, salmon lovers: Epic catch brings tons of fresh fish to the Central Coast
May 31, 2019
San Luis Tribune By Nick Wilson
Salmon are running in epic numbers this year off the Central Coast, and that means lots of fresh fish for commercial fishermen and hungry customers.
This year’s salmon season, which started commercially on May 1, is the best local fishermen have seen in 20 years.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates an increase of more than 150,000 Chinook salmon in California coastal waters this year compared to last, originating from Sacramento River fall-run stocks, many of which have made their way to the Morro Bay coast.
Giovanni DeGarimore, owner of Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley in Morro Bay, is unloading thousands of pounds of fresh-caught salmon daily from local and out-of-the-area boats, citing a 15,000-pound distribution on Tuesday alone.
“It’s like Christmas for us,” DeGarimore said. “This is the biggest salmon catch we’ve had in the past two decades. We’re all really excited to see the boats coming in. Tourists are taking photos. Salmon are beautiful fish, and they make spectacular fillets.
“It’s a fun time around here.”
Lots of fresh salmon for sale
The Tribune observed one commercial fishing boat, the Gladnik out of Crescent City, unload 414 salmon at DeGarimore’s dock, amounting to more than 4,000 pounds. The company Caito Fisheries hauled off bins of ice-packed fish for delivery to San Francisco.
Nearby, customers of Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley, located on the Embarcadero, found fillets of salmon on sale at $29.99 per pound, though prices range between $20 and $30 per pound, DeGarimore said.
Fishermen get paid about $7 per pound, and DeGarimore has seen local boats making as much as $5,000 a day off their catches, often taking in about $30,000 over a five-day outing.
Jeremiah O’Brien of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization said boats are coming to the waters off the Central Coast from as far away as Oregon. He said it’s the best fishing he has seen in 19 years.
“The season is closed for three days, and when it opens next week, I expect there will be many more boats here,” O’Brien said.
The commercial salmon season runs through July 31 along the California coast from Monterey to the Mexican border, with some short breaks during that time, including the three-day closure from Saturday through Tuesday. It resumes on Wednesday.
DeGarimore said the current run along the Central Coast is bringing heavier fish than those caught in Northern California.
“Our average here is about an 11-pound fish, while up in the Bay it’s about 7 pounds,” DeGarimore said. “We’re seeing fatter fish here compared to what they’re getting up there.”
Giovanni’s also has an online commerce service and ships orders of fresh salmon every day to states across the country.
Salmon buzz hits sport fishers
Local sport fishermen are also hooking into the salmon bonanza.
The fish are typically caught between 200 to 300 feet, said Bruce Harwood, general manager of Virg’s Landing, a tackle shop and charter fishing business.
“I’ve been selling a lot of salmon lures, barbless hooks and other tackle,” Harwood said. “We really focus on rockfish, and so we’re not taking people out to catch salmon. But we’re selling a lot of equipment to private boaters.”
Harwood called it a “banner year” for salmon fishing, one in which he hopes will also bring albacore, or longfin tuna, later this season. Albacore is found in in temperate, tropical waters worldwide.
“The most asked question I get is, ‘How’s it looking for albacore?’” Harwood said. “It will depend on ocean conditions. ... They’re such a good fighting fish.”
Brent Lintler, who operates the Port San Luis Boatyard and Sport Launch, said it’s the “best year I’ve seen” for salmon. He said 45 boats caught 79 salmon on May 25, a busy day for private boaters.
Salmon data shows spike from Sacramento run
The reasons for the increased salmon catches include successful survivals of fish raised in hatcheries in Northern California rivers, which have contributed to more prevalent salmon populations off the California coast.
About 379,600 adult Chinook salmon are estimated to be inhabiting California ocean waters from the Sacramento River fall-run, a main salmon stock harvested in California waters, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Sacramento salmon estimate last year was 229,400, according to Barry Miller, an environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife.
That estimate takes into consideration a number of factors, including fish survival rates and spawning data.
“A lot of those fish (in the Sacramento fall run) survived to make it out into the ocean,” Miller said. “This is a healthy year.”
Miller said that when the adult salmon enter the ocean from the Sacramento River near the Golden Gate bridge, they “either turn left or right.”
Miller said it’s clear that many of the salmon traveled south this year. Food sources and water temperatures also are likely factors as to where the salmon run, Miller said. Typically, after three years at sea, salmon return to their spawning site to die.
“There are definitely a lot being caught in pretty big numbers down there (along the Central Coast), though they’re also being caught in San Francisco,” Miller said. “Food has to be part of that. Ocean temperatures have to be part of that.
“None of those things are the sole reason, though.”
Something Fishy Aromas bridge mural welcomes steelhead back to Pajaro River
May 30, 2019
Voice of Monterey Bay by Kathryn McKenzie
A new mural being painted on a bridge isn’t just a way to welcome people to Aromas — it’s also a way to welcome steelhead trout back to the Pajaro River after a long absence.
The project, put together by two nonprofit groups and assisted by Anzar High School students and other community members, has been in the works for some six months but has run into numerous interruptions, including rainy weather.
Last week, though, students were out on the bridge painting fish designs in bold tones of orange, blue, green and yellow, on a long concrete strip that forms the bridge’s west side. The bridge, more than 500 feet long, crosses the river at the border of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Truck drivers coming and going from the nearby Graniterock quarry honked their horns in approval as they rumbled by, shaking the bridge with little earthquakes each time they passed.
It didn’t seem to bother the artists, though, who were intent
on their work.
“The bridge was cleaned, primed and painted blue,” said Linda Bjornson of Aromas Hills Artisans, one of the groups involved in the project. “The fish are initially painted white, and then the colors go over the top of the fish.”
Bjornson was out there painting alongside Anzar art students as well as their teacher, Emily Scettrini, who teaches the advanced art class. Scettrini notes that each student was given a template and the color scheme, and then had to come up with the design on their own.
The result is that each fish is an individual, but all complement each other other in color and shape.
Coming up with a design was challenging, said Cesar Vazquez, an Anzar senior who was carefully painting his fish in a striped pattern.
And each student had a slightly different take on the style — Ruby Rodriguez created wave-like patterns, while next to her, Kiauna Oliver put down patches of color.
“I think of fish, I think of scales,” said Oliver. “I’m trying to make the whole thing scaly-looking.”
Bjornson said the fish theme is no accident, and has ties to several different community projects. More than a decade ago, the Aromas Hills Artisans erected a fish sculpture in the park that is in the heart of the little town. It’s a big fish made up of little fish, each one painted by a community member.
In 2004, artist Jennifer Colby, a professor at CSU Monterey Bay and a longtime Aromas resident, co-curated an traveling exhibit called “Rumme: The Pajaro River Watershed Experience,” which called attention to the problems facing the river, including the plight of steelhead trout, whose numbers had been severely impacted by watershed pollution and agricultural runoff.
In fact, steelhead weren’t seen in the river at all during the 1990s and early 2000s, and environmentalists feared that the fish were gone forever. But as measures have been put into place to protect the river as well as community cleanup efforts and habitat restoration, the river coming back to life.
In 2017, steelhead once again began spawning in Uvas Creek near Gilroy, which feeds into the Pajaro. Now, slowly, the steelhead are making a comeback.
The idea for a mural started last year; the concept came from AHA member Joyce Oroz, who looked at the long, curved surface and thought a river design would be perfect.
Murals are nothing new for the artisans, who have not only liberally decorated Aromas buildings with colorful designs, but also created murals at the Watsonville Wetlands Watch visitors center.
For a small group, though, it was big. “It sounded like a wonderful idea, but it’s just huge,” said Bjornson.
With the help of nonprofit Terra Cultura, the bridge project went forward in gaining permission and permits, which had to come from both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. The fish design came from AHA member Cindy Couling.
Now, the community at large is being invited to be part of it. Painting days will be held starting this Sunday at the bridge, and will continue until all 500-plus-feet are completed — perhaps as many as 80 fish, each 42 inches long.
The mural project is being funded by part of the AHA budget as well as a $1,000 grant from the Aromas Eagles service club. To cover the rest of the expenses, locals are invited to dedicate a fish for a $50 donation. Bjornson is working with Aromas-area organizations to find painters and donors.
When everything’s said and done, the mural will be a beautiful reminder of the river’s importance in this community, and of caring for it.
With the mural, “We’re welcoming people to Aromas, and also welcoming the steelhead back to the river,” said Bjornson.
120,000 Chinook salmon released into Monterey Bay
May 21, 2019
KSBW Monterey by Phil Gomez
Sport and commercial fishermen report that the 2019 Salmon season, so far, is the best it’s been in years.
Part of the success could be attributed to the annual stocking of Chinook or King salmon in the Monterey Bay.
On Tuesday, 120,000 juvenile Chinook were released to support the local sport and commercial fisheries, and even a portion of the economy.
"Actually, it's been pretty good. The only problem, the fish are really deep, hard to catch but there's guus that have been coming in with pretty good catches," said Santa Cruz fisherman Joe Tomasello.
Since the King salmon season opened earlier this month, the supply has been better than last years.
These Chinook salmon didn't swim down from the San Lorenzo River, they were trucked from the Central Valley. From there, they were tagged and released into Monterey Bay, thanks to The Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project.
"They're tagged with what they call, a coded wire tag, which has a little piece of metal that has an individual number, so when it runs into a scanner or a wand over its head, you can tell individually where that fish came from," said Ben Harris, executive director of Monterey Bay and Trout Project.
The release of these thousands of juvenile salmon will also help supplement the local economy.
The Chinook will be ready for commercial and sport fishermen over the next two-to-three years.
"What I call it, it goes from BBQ food to birthday food. You get to eat it when it's $30 a pound. It's still up in the twenties but it will probably never go under that because it's such a sought-after product," said Haveman.
Ocean predators will eat many of those that are released but most will survive.
"So, in nature, it's a fraction of a percent so every thousand eggs you're only going to see a handful of those fish survive. Here we're lucky to see one to three percent of the fish released. Again, a measurable benefit when you're talking about 120,000 fish," said Harris.
So, in 2023 when these King salmon return, anglers should have a fish story to share.
It cost about $30,000 to raise and truck the Chinook to the Santa Cruz Harbor. The funding comes from The Commercial Salmon Trollers, as well as The Monterey Bay Trout and Salmon Project.
Reintroduction of Winter Run Chinook Into The McCloud River
May 21, 2019
Barbless.Co Podcast by Jon Ambrose – NOAA / NMFS
In this episode of the show we sit down with NOAA Biologist Jon Ambrose. Jon is the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) salmon Reintroduction Coordinator for the California Central Valley.
We talk in detail about the reintroduction efforts currently underway to bring Winter Run Chinook salmon back to the McCloud River. The plan involves deployment of a thermal curtain that stretches bank-to-bank across the upper section of the McCloud arm of Lake Shasta in an effort to capture and truck migrating juvenile salmon.
We express our concerns for what a thermal curtain would mean to resident lake brown trout and rainbow trout that use the McCloud each year in the fall for spawning (at the same time the reintroduction project will be happening).
Be sure to download schematics for the thermal curtain as well taking a deeper dive into a presentation that we just published to our YouTube channel – a collaboration we did with Jon on behalf of NOAA/NMFS in order to represent the agency’s plan as accurately as possible. All links are below.
Learn more about the project: https://www.usbr.gov/mp/bdo/shasta-dam-fish-pass.html
West Marin nonprofit snares $593K for creek restoration
May 20, 2019
Marin Independent Journal By Will Houston
The West Marin ghost town of Jewell is set to be reclaimed by nature this year with a $593,000 boost from the state.
The Olema-based Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN, plans to use a grant to restore the historic floodplains on Lagunitas Creek that once provided vital refuge for the now dwindling populations of endangered coho salmon and other wildlife.
“Restoring the floodplain along the creek will re-create the large, dynamic wetland with off-channels, alcoves and numerous large woody debris structures — all elements that coho salmon critically need for recovery,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of SPAWN and the Turtle Island Restoration Network. “These habitats will create slow off-channel areas that are commonly seen in undeveloped pristine waterways that provide spawning, feeding and rearing habitat for fish and other threatened wildlife including California freshwater shrimp and California red-legged frog.”
These historic floodplains were filled in to make room for houses, fences and swimming pools at the Jewell and Tocaloma subdivisions along the creek near Olema during the early 20th century. By removing the fill and concrete foundations of the homes and a former bridge, SPAWN seeks to allow the creek to spread out as it once did, improving both water quality and habitat.
Without these floodplains, the rain-swollen creek waters have nowhere to spread out to. As a result, the water flows faster and more powerfully.
“(The creeks) just cut down into their own skeletons basically and leave their flood plains up and dry,” said Preston Brown, SPAWN’s watershed conservation director. “If the water has nowhere to go, no flood plains, it’s just going to carve out the bed and transport that sediment out. But by having a flood plain again that sediment can build back up.”
Newly hatched coho salmon must survive for another year in the freshwater before returning to the ocean, but risk being washed away if there are no floodplains to weather out the heavy winter flows in. To restore the flood plains, contractors are set to begin removing 6,000 cubic yards of fill, concrete and rubble on the site as well as dig out side channels for the water to flow through. This will create slower moving pockets within the channels where the fish and other critters can find respite from predators and strong storms.
SPAWN has already performed this work last year a couple miles downstream where the subdivision of Tocaloma once was located. So far, the results have been promising, with the habitat improvements stretching beyond the project sites through natural processes.
“We’re anticipating that here,” Brown said, standing along the eastern bank of the creek where Jewell once stood. “By treating this side of the creek, we’re also treating the other side and upstream and downstream.”
Various state, federal and local agencies are partnering for this project, which is being funded through the state’s Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 bond funds. Other partners include the California Coastal Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service.
“Projects like this are essential to ensuring that juvenile salmonids can take refuge and make it through the high, winter flow events in Lagunitas Creek,” said David Press, wildlife ecologist with Point Reyes National Seashore. “We are very impressed with the bold and innovative work that SPAWN completed during the first phase of this project, and look forward to seeing this additional work on National Park Service lands.”
Local students from elementary to high schools have also lent a hand in helping to raise the plants and trees that will populate the new habitat. The plants will work to stabilize the creek banks, provide shelter and shade and have the added benefit of sequestering carbon, said Audrey Fusco, SPAWN’s plant ecologist and native plant nursery manager.
“We’ve had students involved all along, through every step of the process from growing the plants, even collecting the seeds,” Fusco said.
Only vestiges of Jewell remain after the park service demolished the former waterside homes in 2016. What remains are large concrete foundations, brick fences, bridge foundations and a former swimming pool now filled with dirt and plants.
Dewey Livingston, a Marin historian and author, said Jewell and Tocaloma subdivisions arose after the owner of the historic Cheda dairy ranch, which ran along the eastern bank, decided to subdivide the waterfront into more than 100 pieces. While it is referred to as a ghost town by some, Jewell was merely a subdivision named after a former train flagstop that passed by Omar Jewell’s dairy ranch in the late 19th century, Livingston said.
“It was one of those ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ places,” Dewey said.
The neighboring Tocaloma subdivision just downstream was a kind of “suburb” of the community that was established on the other side of the creek, Livingston said. After the national parks were established, the waterfront homes remained in place until their leases expired in the early 2000s and were left vacant thereafter.
Brown says that Marin must learn from its history as it considers future developments in San Geronimo Valley so as to avoid having to spend years and decades repairing the damage.
“We can’t make the same mistakes of the past,” Brown said.