Salmon Counted at Central Valley Hatcheries are Below Last Year’s Numbers

Sacramento RiverPublished December 18, 2015


CENTRAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA – Preliminary figures from Central Valley fish hatcheries reveal that the numbers of salmon that have returned to Sacramento River tributaries to date are below the large numbers projected by the federal government earlier this year.National Marine Fisheries Service abundance forecasts released in February, developed in modeling based on the 2014 returns of salmon to the rivers, indicated there would be approximately 652,000 adult Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon and 423,800 adults from the Klamath River fall run in the ocean this year. That would be a total of 1,075,800 salmon. 

However, the numbers of salmon that have been counted this fall dovetail with the mediocre commercial and recreational fishing reported on the California coast this year.

In the coming two months, state and federal government fishery managers will be tallying up the data on spawning escapement in the Central Valley rivers and hatcheries to be used in crafting the 2016 ocean and river seasons. Note that the numbers of jacks and jills (two year old fish), which the fishery managers largely base their abundance on, are larger than those counted last year on the Feather River and Nimbus facilities.

The numbers of fish counted at Coleman National Fish Hatchery on Battle Creek weren’t available at this time, but the numbers of fish trapped at the Feather River, Nimbus and Mokelumne River hatcheries were. I will report additional data on hatchery counts and fish carcass surveys as soon as I receive it.

The Feather River Fish Hatchery staff has finished spawning fall-run Chinook salmon for this season and hasn’t started spawning steelhead yet. 

The facility has trapped approximately 16,349 adult salmon and 7,763 jacks and jills, a total of 24,112 fish this season. That compares to 24,893 adults and 6,620 jacks, a total of 31,513 fish, in 2014. That puts the run 7401 fish below last season. 

The hatchery has taken enough eyed eggs, 11-1/2 million, to produce their goal of 8 million smolts, according to Anna Kastener, hatchery manager.

“The fish were really healthy, although they appeared to be smaller than normal. We saw a lot of jacks and jills this season,” she observed.

She said the hatchery planted 110,000 chinook salmon in Lake Oroville on November 13 to sustain the landlocked king fishery. The fish were 4 to the pound – about 8 to 10 inches apiece.

“We’ve seen hardly any steelhead – 4 in the trap today–at the hatchery to date,” she noted.   

Fall-run Chinook salmon continue to move into the Nimbus Fishery on the American River, along with a few winter steelhead. The hatchery is currently spawning fall-run Chinooks.

The hatchery has trapped a total of 7831 salmon, including 2023 jacks and jills, this year to date. That compares to 8343 salmon, including 1,295 jacks and jills, last season to date.

The hatchery should have no problem meeting its goal of spawning enough eggs to produce 4 million smolts next year, according to Gary Novak at Nimbus Fish Hatchery.

He noted that they have already sent 2 million eggs to the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, in addition to the eggs they have on hand at Nimbus, as insurance against any unforeseen disaster.

Novak estimated that 10 steelhead have followed the salmon into the hatchery. “Last year we had seen only 3 steelhead to date,” he noted

The hatchery plans to release about 291,000 steelhead yearlings into the river system next year, according to Novak.

Water temperatures continue to be very cold at the facility, 51 degrees at press time. The Bureau of Reclamation continues to release only 500 cfs into the American River. 

The Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in Clements has trapped a total of 6,199 fall-run Chinook salmon, including 3,822 adults and 2377 jacks and jills, according to the latest available data. The numbers for last year to date weren’t available at press time. The Mokelumne is a tributary of the San Joaquin River.

“We got all of the eggs we need for our production goal this year,” said Eric Barrow, office technician at the hatchery. “We’ve taken a total of 6 million eggs so far — and fresh fish keep coming into the hatchery. It’s a late run this year.”

The numbers of salmon counted in the river over Woodbridge Dam in Lodi, as of December 8, are 10,857 fish. That compares to around 12,000 fish last year at the same time.

The hatchery has trapped 37 steelhead total to date, including 24 adults and 13 half pounders.

Again, I will update you on reports from Coleman and other fish hatcheries, as well as the carcass counts on the Sacramento River and tributaries, as the data comes in.

Fishing groups, Indian Tribes, environmentalists and public trust advocates have criticized the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources for mismanaging Trinity, Shasta, Oroville  and Folsom reservoirs during the drought. Over the past three years, the federal and state water agencies have drained the reservoirs to record low levels to divert water to corporate agribusiness, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods.

The result is that over 95 percent of the winter-run Chinook salmon juveniles have perished over the past two years in lethally warm water conditions. Fish advocates point out that the spring and fall runs of salmon have also suffered greatly due to mismanagement by the state and federal water agencies.

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