Salmon spawning tours offered Dec. 9th, 16th
December 4, 2018
Del Norte Triplicate
Del Norters will have a chance to see coho salmon spawn in the Mill Creek Watershed this weekend and next.
The Redwood Parks Conservancy and Redwood National and State Parks are offering free guided trips to view the annual fall migration and salmon spawning this Sunday and on Dec. 16.
The Mill Creek Watershed is regarded as one of California’s most ecologically sensitive areas and a top productive stream for coho salmon, according to a Redwood Parks Conservancy press release. The National Parks Service and California State Parks have been working on several watershed restoration projects for more than 30 years. As habitat conditions improve, more salmon are able to return to the streams of their birth to reproduce, according to the press release.
Under the guidance of Redwood Parks Conservancy volunteer Rick Hiser, participants will carpool in their own vehicles on gravel roads to special viewing locations. Walking over uneven ground for short distances may be required, according to a press release from the nonprofit. Wet weather gear and sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. Polarized glasses and binoculars are suggested, but not required, for best fish viewing. The program will be canceled if it rains or if water clarity is otherwise altered.
The outings are 12:30 p.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 9 and Dec. 16. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. To pre-register, call Hiser at 707-465-6191.
A preliminary summary of the adult fish count from the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for Shasta River, Bogus Creek and Scott River has been published.
December 4, 2018
Department of Fish and Wildlife
The attached in season summary of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Klamath River Project 2018 adult fish counting facility monitoring data. The Shasta River station was installed and operational on September 4, 2018 and through October 12, 2018 17,592 adult Chinook Salmon have been observed. The Bogus Creek adult fish counting facility was installed and operational on September 7, 2018 and 1,226 adult Chinook Salmon have been observed through October 18, 2018. The Scott River station was installed on September 20th and 348 adult Chinook Salmon and 3 Coho Salmon have been observed through November 23, 2018. Just a reminder that the 2018 data provided is preliminary. The Shasta River station was installed and operational on September 4, 2018 and through October 12, 2018 17,592 adult Chinook Salmon have been observed. The Bogus Creek adult fish counting facility was installed and operational on September 7, 2018 and 1,226 adult Chinook Salmon have been observed through October 18, 2018. The Scott River station was installed on September 20th and 348 adult Chinook Salmon and 3 Coho Salmon have been observed through November 23, 2018. See the preliminary 2018 data here.
Denis Peirce: Next year’s salmon numbers look promising
November 29, 2018
The Union of Grass Valley by Denis Peirce
The salmon stocks off our coast are not one big school of fish rather it is a collection of many different groups that return to different rivers at different times of the year.
We live on the edge of the Sacramento Valley and our focus is the Sacramento and Feather River runs. There is a run to the south of us on the Mokelumne River that has been making a remarkable recovery from a very low point a few years back.
I first became aware of the salmon run on the Mokelumne River over 10 years ago. I wanted to learn where and how to fish for stripers on the Delta.
A friend recommended going south of Sacramento on I-5 to the Walnut Grove off ramp near Galt and launch at Wimpies Marina. It is on the Mokelumne river and it can be good striper water at times. That trip the only fish landed was a nice but dark salmon.
On the hunt for stripers
Two years ago in October I wanted to fish for stripers in the Delta and Wimpies was my first choice for where to put in. I showed up mid-morning and there was not one place to park. Every conceivable turnout had a boat and trailer jammed in.
I checked with the staff at Wimpies and was told that October was the month for the salmon run on the Mokelumne. The salmon were fresh from the ocean and the bite was on. Farther to the north on the Feather and the Sacramento rivers the best time for fresh fish was August and September. The angling pressure follows the good fishing.
The Mokelumne has not always been a go-to river for salmon fishing. In fact, in the early 1990s it was in poor shape.
The rebound in the salmon returns of the last 20 years stems from a 1998 agreement between the Department of Fish & Wildlife and East Bay Municipal Utility District. The agreement focused on water operations, including managing cold water in Camanche and Pardee reservoirs to maintain good spawning conditions and releasing pulse flows to attract salmon to the hatchery. There is an ongoing tagging program to monitor the results.
Another aspect of the success is the transporting of the juvenile salmon by barge through the Delta to boost survival rates
A positive impact
The success of the Mokelumne River Hatchery program has been remarkable. In 2017 there was a record return of 19,954 salmon which is double the 20 year average of 9,541 fish. As of Nov. 28 of this year there have been 14,800 returning compared to last year's 16,500 as of the same date.
What is surprising is the impact of the Mokelumne fish on salt water salmon angling off the coast. Based on tagging data this year, 35 percent of sportsman caught salmon and 20 percent of commercial catch from the California coast are from the Mokelumne River hatchery. This river is among the smallest tributaries to the Delta but it produces a tremendous amount of our fish.
The outlook for steelhead is also quite promising. We are at the beginning of the seasonal hatchery return but expectations are for returns approaching the 600 fish record from last year. Compared with the long term average of 160 steelhead we appear to be at a cyclical peak but the improved water management is a major factor.
In comparison the Feather River had a good season in 2018. The adult salmon hatchery return was close to 30,000 fish which is double the 15,000 from 2017. The count of returning "jacks" was 12,000 this year an increase over the 8,000 from last year.
The steelhead numbers for the January 2019 spawn look promising. The Feather River Hatchery does not start holding steelhead in the tanks until mid December. Those that come to the hatchery early, are returned to the river.
So far, this year the hatchery personnel have returned 400 to 500 steelhead. If these were all unique fish, it would be sufficient to produce the 450,000 steelhead goal for this facility, without the fish that arrive in late December and into January.
The Feather River contribution to the salt water salmon catch is typically about 60 percent of the take. The Coleman Hatchery for Sacramento River fish produces the greatest quantity of fish but its salmon are not a proportional amount of the ocean catch.
Next year in October, when the salmon on the Feather are getting dark, head south to the Mokelumne River. The river is deep enough for prop boats and there are a lot of salmon to be caught.
Salmon surge: Habitat improvements paying off on one California river
November 28, 2018
San Francisco Chronicle by Peter Fimrit
Near record numbers of chinook salmon are surging up the Mokelumne River, marking the second large spawning year in a row and signaling to fisheries biologists that habitat improvements in recent years are paying off for fish and the people who eat the pinkish delicacies.
The Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, a Sierra foothills plant that is part of California’s sprawling Central Valley river system, has processed 13,695 salmon so far this year, a number that by the end of the year could come close to last year’s record of 19,954 returning fish.
It is expected to be the best two-year run on the river since records started being kept in 1940, a significant accomplishment given how dismal salmon returns have been over the past three years in virtually every other waterway in California, including the Sacramento River, which last year saw its lowest returns in
The incursion in the Mokelumne is the result of increases over the past few years in cold water releases from the reservoirs, better management of hatchery fish and habitat improvements in the river, according to fisheries biologists.
“It’s a very positive trend,” said Jose Setka, the manager of fisheries and wildlife for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which supplies Mokelumne River water to 1.4 million East Bay customers. “We’re very excited. I think it’s just the culmination of a number of different management actions we’ve taken over the last decade that have pushed us to the next level.”
Steelhead numbers are also up for the third consecutive year. Setka said they are on pace to match the 500 to 600 that returned each of the past two years. He said 100 returning steelhead used to be considered a good year.
It is the fall run chinook, otherwise known as king salmon, that are most important to fisheries biologists because that is the species that commercial fishermen catch and fish markets sell. The count is a crucial gauge of how many salmon survive the ocean and swim upriver to the place where they were born.
The salmon, in this case, have imprinted on the Mokelumne so they instinctively swim to the hatchery, where they are taken inside on conveyor belts and unceremoniously clubbed to death. Workers then cut out their eggs, which are fertilized with sperm milked out of the males, and the resulting babies are raised until they are ready to be released.
Fall run chinook, so named because the fish return to their native streams in the fall, pass through San Francisco Bay and roam the Pacific Ocean as far away as Alaska before returning to their natal streams, usually at age 3, to spawn. Salmon born into the wild die naturally after laying their eggs in gravel.
The other chinook populations — the winter and spring runs — have been so badly depleted that in most waterways there are too few of them to allow fishing.
The Mokelumne hatchery was built for $13 million 20 years ago as part of a relicensing agreement with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The improved hatchery — a rudimentary one existed before — was mitigation for the disruption of the fish migration caused by the construction of dams, including at the Camanche Reservoir in Amador, Calaveras and San Joaquin counties and the Pardee Reservoir in Amador and Calaveras counties.
The water released from the reservoirs flows through the Central Valley and meets the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is a crossroads for one of the largest annual fish migrations on the West Coast. Fish released from the Mokelumne made up 20 percent of the commercial catch and 35 percent of the recreational catch off the coast of California in 2017.
About 2,000 fewer salmon have spawned in the Mokelumne so far this fall compared with last year at this time, but Setka said the number is well above the 20-year average of 9,541. It is, Setka said, a strong indication that recent improvements made by the water district in collaboration with the Department of Fish and Wildlife have been effective.
The district has added 70,000 cubic yards of gravel, about 300 dump-truck loads, to the river near the hatchery every year since the late 1990s. Bursts of cold water, called “pulse flows,” have also been released from Lake Camanche during the spawning season to inspire the salmon to swim upriver.
Cross-channel gates have also been added near Walnut Grove in Sacramento County to prevent Mokelumne and Sacramento salmon from getting confused and going up the wrong river, he said.
A specialized diet has been developed to assist the fish as they transfer from freshwater to seawater, and a pilot program is being completed this year in which biologists barge juvenile chinook downriver in underwater tanks before they are let go to help them imprint on the river.
Setka said about a quarter of all the chinook that are released get wire tags with numeric codes inserted in their snouts so that biologists know where they came from when they are captured or die spawning.
The Mokelumne work is critical as an example of what can be done to improve both the California river system and the health, fertility and survival of hatchery fish. Studies over the past decade have shown that hatchery-raised fish pass on genetic defects that hamper survival of their offspring, and can even reduce the fitness of their wild relatives when they interbreed.
Setka hopes to take steps in the future to help the wild salmon in the Mokelumne, which currently make up only about 20 percent of the fish in the river.
The record run last year happened while the rest of the Central Valley river basin, including the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers, suffered through the worst salmon returns since 2009. Only 101,222 chinook were counted last year in all of the rivers combined, including the Mokelumne, according to state records. The two years before that were only slightly better.
The overall number of returning chinook, which are historically most abundant in the Sacramento River and its tributaries, is not yet available, but Peter Tira, a Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said spawning has improved dramatically overall this year.
The best salmon year on record was 2002, when 872,669 fish returned to the Central Valley. Rock bottom was reached in 2009, when only 53,129 salmon spawned in the river system.
Press release from Friends of the Eel River: Friends of the Eel Petition for Protection of Northwestern California Summer Steelhead
November 26, 2018
RedHeaded Blackbelt by Kym Kemp
Friends of the Eel River have formally petitioned state and federal fisheries agencies to protect the summer steelhead of Northwestern California rivers under their respective Endangered Species Acts. These unique, and increasingly rare, fish are clearly distinct from more numerous, and less vulnerable, winter-run steelhead.
“Given their critical conservation status, North Coast summer steelhead should be immediately listed as endangered,” said Friends of the Eel River Conservation Director Scott Greacen.
The differences between summer steelhead and winter-run fish are stark. Summer steelhead generally enter freshwater in spring, spend the dry season in coldwater refugia, then spawn further up their watersheds than any other anadromous (sea-run) fish.
Summer steelhead include the largest adults of any steelhead and the strongest swimmers and highest-leaping fish of any salmonid. Unlike winter steelhead, summer steelhead enter freshwater as “bright” fish, with undeveloped gonads; they prepare to spawn over the summer while fasting, subsisting on a much higher level of body fat than winter-run steelhead.
Thanks to significant technology-driven advances in genetic science, recently published studies have demonstrated that summer steelhead’s physiological and behavioral adaptations are the result of a specific genetic difference with winter steelhead.2 As well, this research shows that protection schemes which lump summer and winter run steelhead together, as the federal listing for Northern California steelhead now does, lead to the irrevocable loss of summer-run fish.
Under the federal Endangered Species Act, these studies clearly constitute the “best available science,” which must be taken into account in making decisions about the protection of threatened and endangered species.
“Science now confirms what tradition and experience have always told us: summer steelhead are truly different from their winter run cousins,” said Greacen. “Once we recognize this, it’s clear that the conservation status of summer steelhead is absolutely dire. There are probably fewer than a thousand adults spawning each year across their entire range, from Redwood Creek to the Mattole River, including the largest known populations in the Middle Fork Eel and Van Duzen Rivers. That’s why we’ve asked the federal National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to list summer steelhead as endangered under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.”
Friends of the Eel River are particularly concerned by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) current effort to relicense PG&E’s Scott Dam, a century-old, 130’ concrete dam that completely blocks fish passage to hundreds of miles of steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Mainstem Eel River basin. The National Marine Fisheries Service notes in its 2016 Coastal Multi-Species Recovery Plan that the “Upper Mainstem Eel River steelhead population was once the longest-migrating population in the entire (regional population). Restoring access to historical habitat above Scott Dam is essential to recovering this population.” It also notes that “Scott Dam currently blocks access to 99 percent of the potential habitat available to this steelhead population.”