Salmon Snapshots

Smith River

2016/17 Population

Estimate of Ocean Returning Fish


Oncorhynchus kisutch


Oncorhynchus tshawytscha


Oncorhynchus mykiss

  What We Have    
Fall 116
Winter 469
  What We Need    
Fall *
Winter *
Estimate of the number of spawning fish nests (called redds) for coho salmon for the Mill Creek subpopulation only provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. No coho were observed outside of Mill Creek, the primary spawning habitat for coho in the Smith River watershed. Population estimates of the number of coho salmon will be based on the redd estimates. Data are preliminary and subject to change. The California Coastal Salmonid Monitoring Program for Smith River initiated in 2011/12. 
The Smith River Chinook salmon and steelhead escapement estimates are based on DIDSON data with steelhead kelts (downstream count) removed after January, and Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery weir counts (Larson, 2015). 
The Chinook salmon and steelhead population estimates include an unknown number of hatchery fish. The Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery, located at the identified dam on Rowdy Creek (see map on the “Where We Find Salmon” tab) is a supplementation hatchery intended to increase salmon populations that can be harvested through sportfishing in the Smith River. Little is known regarding hatchery influence across the entire basin. However, using existing survey methods (i.e., spawner surveys, creel, outmigrant trap, steelhead report card, Rowdy Creek weir) between years 1981 and 2013, average observed stray rates can be reported for subbasins of the Smith River. For Chinook salmon, the percentage of returning fish that are hatchery fish is estimated at 25% in Rowdy Creek, 14% below the forks, and 6% above the forks (see map for location of forks). For steelhead, the percentage of returning fish that are hatchery fish is estimated at 34% in Rowdy Creek, 26% below the forks, and 17% above the forks. (Garwood and Larson 2014)
Population estimate for coho and steelhead derived from life cycle monitoring station. Data provided by California Department of Fish and Wildlife.Rowdy Creek Hatchery weir count. Steelhead: 234 males, 235 females. Chinook: 34 males 22 jacks, 60 females.

Coho salmon in the Smith River watershed are state and federally listed as threatened. The “What We Need” spawner population abundance targets shown above represent just one of several criteria that the National Marine Fisheries Service considers when determining whether a species should be removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (50 CFR 223.102). Recovering any of the species entails meeting criteria for abundance, productivity, diversity, and spatial structure across multiple watersheds, as well as criteria for alleviating threats (NMFS 2014).

* Chinook salmon and steelhead populations are not considered at risk of extinction by NMFS. No target defined.

The 2016/17 snapshot is defined as fall 2016 to spring 2017, as per when salmon and steelhead return from the ocean to spawn. Fall Chinook spawning season is fall 2016. Coho season is fall through early January 2017. Steelhead season can start in fall 2016 but is primarily winter and spring 2017.


National Marine Fisheries Service. 2014. Final Recovery Plan for the Southern Oregon Northern California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit of Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). September 2014.

Garwood, J.M. and M.D. Larson. 2014. Reconnaissance of Salmonid Redd Abundance and Juvenile Salmonid Spatial Structure in the Smith River with Emphasis on Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). March 2014.

Zach Larson & Assoc. 2015. Using DIDSON (Dual Frequency Identification Sonar) to Monitor Chinook and Steelhead Escapement in the Smith River, Del Norte County, California, 2014-2015. May 2015.

Z. Larson. 2013. Use of Dual Frequency Identification Sonar to Monitor Steelhead Escapement in the Smith River, California, 2012-2013. June 2013. 

Williams, T. H., B.C. Spence, W. Duffy, D. Hillemeier, G. Kautsky, T.E. Lisle, M. McCain, T.E. Nickelson, E. Mora, and T. Pearson. 2008. Framework for assessing viability of Threatened coho salmon in the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Evolutionary Significant Unit. U.S.Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SWFSC-432.

fish images © Joe Tomelleri