Feather River salmon returns expected to be high
September 25, 2018
Daily Democrat /By Risa Johnso
With the fish ladder gates opened on Friday, Feather River Fish Hatchery crews expect to see thousands of springrun and fall-run Chinook salmon return home in the coming weeks.
Fish Hatchery Manager Penny Crawshaw said a solid fishing season out in the ocean was a good indication that there would be high returns this year. Crawshaw also said that the river temperature was optimal for the fish.
Chinook salmon are wired to return to the place they were born to spawn, and then they die. They have a 3-5 year life span.
Crawshaw said that they hatchery had “quite a few” human visitors on Friday, as the fish ladder opened in the morning. The hatchery is operated by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
About 3,200 spring-run salmon came to the hatchery in the spring and she hopes to see a little more than 3,000 spring-run Salmon return. As the name implies, fall run salmon return later, so Crawshaw didn’t have an estimate of how many were expected just yet.
She said that the spring-run salmon hang around in the Feather River after arriving in spring and typically spawn about two and a half weeks before fall run salmon do. Fall-run salmon are just beginning to arrive.
All spring-run salmon are tagged when they first arrive at the hatchery, while about 25 percent of the fall-run population is tagged, Crawshaw said. There is a greater focus on tracking spring-run salmon because the species is endangered.
There are a couple of new features at the hatchery this year, including a new scanning apparatus which counts the fish as they come up the ladder.
Threatened spring-run chinook salmon are sparse this year
September 24, 2018
Chico Enterprise Record By Steve Schoonover
The rare spring-run chinook salmon is rarer than usual this year, according to counts in the three streams that support the bulk of the wild fish left in the Sacramento River system.
In Butte Creek, a snorkel survey counted 2,118 fish this year, according to Colin Purdy, who supervises the count for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s less than half the average since 1989 of 4,427 fish.
“It is low unfortunately,” he said, “but it’s better than last year.”
In 2017, only 950 fish were counted.
The record was in 2001, when the carcass survey turned up 18,312 fish.
The carcass survey is the second count Fish and Wildlife does of the salmon in Butte Creek, and is made possible by the lifecycle of the fish.
The spring-run fish return from the ocean in spring, almost always to the streams where they were born. They head far upstream into the foothills and spend the summer in deep, cool pools of water, before spawning in the fall. After they spawn, they die. Their offspring will later head downstream and out to the ocean, spending two or three years there before returning to complete the cycle.
As a result of the lifecycle, the creeks are full of dead fish after the spawning cycle ends. The nutrients of their bodies sustain a number of birds, animals and other fish, and enrich the food value of the water in the creeks.
The dead fish are also easy to count. Fish and Wildlife technicians will walk the creek after the spawn and count the carcasses, marking each one so it isn’t counted twice.
Purdy said in years when there are a lot of fish, the carcass count is far more accurate than the snorkel count. But in a low year like this one, the snorkel count is probably pretty accurate.
He said as of Friday, spawning hadn’t started in the creek, but he expected this week to see the female fish building the redds where they will lay their eggs. Male fish will then spray their sperm on the egg masses, and the new generation will begin.
The spring-run used to be the largest of the chinook runs in the Central Valley. But construction of dams like Shasta and Oroville blocked access to the higher-elevation cool water the fish need to survive the summer, and the numbers dropped. The spring-run is now listed as threatened on both the state and federal endangered species lists.
Deer and Mill creeks
Two eastern Tehama County creeks support most of the spring-run salmon that don’t head up Butte Creek, and this year, their numbers are terribly low.
In Mill Creek, just 51 salmon were counted, according to Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist Matt Johnson. That’s the worst ever, in a count that goes back to 1970. In Deer Creek, there were 159 fish, about the third lowest on record.
“I think we are seeing the continued effects of the severe drought we were in,” Johnson said.
He explained that when the fish returning this year were born, they had really poor conditions in the fresh water, with low levels of warm water. Then when they got to the ocean, the water there was warmer than usual, which isn’t good for the fish. “It was basically a double whammy.”
If there is good news in Tehama County, it’s that the new fish ladder around Lower Deer Creek Falls appears to be a success.
The falls, about 35 miles upstream from the Sacramento River, are a 15-foot barrier to fish moving upstream. A fish ladder was built around the falls in the 1940s, but it was steep and didn’t work well. Johnson said most of the spring-run in Deer Creek spawned in areas below the falls.
However in 2016 and 2017, a new, longer ladder with more, shallower steps was completed, and this year the snorkel survey found about 73 percent of the spring-run in the creek were upstream from the falls.
The counts are done differently on Deer and Mill creeks. The official count is done by video taken at a station the fish swim past on their way upstream.
Johnson said he was hoping for a recovery in the number of fish next year. “The conditions for next year’s returning fish look better,” he said.
Salmon feeding ground on Ten Mile River is a ‘win-win’
September 24, 2018
Fort Bragg Advocate-News By Michelle Blackwell
Work is nearly complete on a project to create a more salmon-friendly environment on the South Fork of the Ten Mile River.
Four sections of the South Fork have been outfitted with engineered log jams, with a seasonal pond built south of the river to capture rainwater. These attributes are designed to mimic historic flows and give young salmon places to shelter as they reach maturity.
“It took five years of planning and two months of construction to reach this point,” said Dave Wright, project manager for The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
Planning meant securing funding, getting permits from a half dozen or so agencies, and extensive scientific review from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Campbell Timberland Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marin Fisheries Service, Stillwater Sciences, and Prunuske Chatham, an environmental consulting firm based in Sebastopol that designed the project and oversaw permitting.
The result is a benchmark riparian restoration program that is the first of its kind.
Wright explained, “The log jams, split channels and seasonal ponds create edge habitat that allows the juvenile fish to get out of the main stream to feed and hide. Currently about 200 salmon return to the South Fork. Each salmon averages 3500 eggs, of which 50 percent emerge. Marine survival is two percent. Giving the juveniles space and resources to fatten up will increase their survival rate and return.”
This project created log jams at four locations. The Nature Conservancy has identified 15 to 16 more sites where they hope to repeat this process in the coming years. “Now that we have gotten the major agencies and scientific organizations signed off on the concept, the next sites should go faster,” said Wright.
Funding will also play a role in adding sites. California Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program, tasked with funding projects that restore anadromous salmonid habitat in coastal areas, contributed $1.7 million for this project in 2015. The S. L. Gimbel Foundation provided an additional $1 million.
Construction of the log jams required the contractor, Wylatti Resource Management, which recently purchased Geo Aggregates north of Fort Bragg, to harvest trees, sharpen them like pencils and then use a vibrating plate mounted on a bulldozer to push them 15 to 20 feet below ground at various angles. Wylatti also moved previously felled trees into strategic locations along the river. Brian Hurt of Wylatti said, “It was a good project that created local jobs.”
Landscape architect Mike Jensen of Prunuske Chatham explained, “the hammerhead tree, so named because it will force water into the pond during heavy rains, fell over in a wind storm near the South Fork. It has a root wad of 13 feet and the trunk is 4×7 feet. It took three pieces of equipment to maneuver it into a split channel near the seasonal pond. The juvenile fish will follow the flow into the pond and feast on the buffet of insects that are flooded out from the rains.”
Samara Restorations of McKinleyville has started replanting areas disturbed during construction with local willows, alders, ash and maple trees as well as two dozen types of shrubs, vines and grasses. Restoration work will be completed during the upcoming rainy season.
Trout Unlimited is tasked with designing the monitoring program. There will be ample opportunities for other agencies and projects with similar aims to tour the project site as they plan their own restoration projects. A two-day seminar is planned this fall to show off the project to fishery restoration professionals. If all goes as planned, Fort Bragg will enjoy more fish in our local waters and touring scientists will harvest some useful ideas for restoration in the future.
Festival celebrates return of chinook salmon/
September 23, 2018
Chico Enterprise Record By Bianca Quilantan
OROVILLE — The 24th annual Oroville Salmon Festival Saturday attracted thousands who celebrated the return of the chinook salmon to the Feather River. And, this year, the salmon were also in full attendance.
Anna Kastner, who has been the Feather River Hatchery manager for more than 20 years, said the hatchery is responsible for the environmental education portion of the Salmon Festival. Each year, the salmon spawning tours fill up fast — this year was no exception.
People lined up to take a look through the windows to watch fish and wildlife technicians fertilizing chinook salmon eggs from the spring run.
“People can come and see what we do,” she said. “We take the sperm and the eggs and we make babies.”
Dave Lunsford, who has been working as a fish and wildlife technician for 12 years, said this year the hatchery is expecting a better return of fish and eggs. Mike Lasagna, another technician who was fertilizing the eggs, agreed.
“We got a lot of fish,” he said. “It’s going to be a good year.”
Environmental resource agency tables also lined the roadway to the hatchery with activities for all ages. Kids in colored-in paper salmon hats stopped at booths to learn about fire safety and more.
“I think I see more kids this year than I’ve seen in the past, so it’s really nice to be able to see the children,” Kastner said. “We have all of the resource agencies, the fire department with the smokehouse, we have fly casting, a couple aquariums — there’s just all kinds of activities to teach the kids about the environment.”
New at the hatchery this year was a salmon life cycle mural created by the Yuba City High School ceramics class. Last year, the students had a booth selling fish feed at the hatchery to raise money for the project, Kastner said, and It was unveiled Saturday for the first time.
Another new attraction was a kayak rafting tour on the Feather River where attendees could learn about salmon migration and their life cycle. Tours left hourly from the hatchery and tickets were priced at $35.
“The idea is to develop a floating classroom program that will go throughout the spawning season,” said Ray Laager, Salmon Festival event coordinator. “It will kick off at the Salmon Festival and then it will go until mid-November or whenever the fall run ends.”
Live music and the smell of smoked salmon filled the air in at Salmon Court held on the levee near the river in downtown Oroville. Below in historic downtown, the streets were filled with vendors selling craft goods and foods, and downtown businesses invited passersby in for a quick trip into their stores.
Laager said the event is about celebrating the return of the wild chinook salmon up the Feather River. He said it’s one of the last wild salmon chinook runs in California. Laager estimated that about 20,000 people attended the festival this year and said he hopes to gain more visibility for next year’s festival.
“Next year is our 25th anniversary,” he said. “It’s a secret, but we are planning a lot of special things.”
Oroville Salmon Festival Returns on Sept. 22
September 18, 2018
The 2018 Oroville Salmon Festival is scheduled Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville and in downtown Oroville.
The annual event will feature free tours to view salmon spawning, information booths, educational displays and vendor booths. The festival is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the hatchery and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Oroville.
The Feather River Hatchery, which raises Chinook salmon and steelhead along the Feather River just below Lake Oroville, will offer free tours, and an underwater viewing window at the hatchery displays migrating salmon or steelhead. The fish ladder opened at the hatchery on Sept. 14.
The hatchery also plans to unveil art created by students from Yuba City High School during the festival. The ceramics mural, which illustrates the life cycle of Chinook salmon, will be displayed outside the main office at the hatchery. Also scheduled at the hatchery are a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. and a lunch from noon to 3 p.m.
For more information, please visit www.salmonfestoroville.org.