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Longfin Smelt Return from the Ocean

Back in December, I posted that longfin smelt may be gone.  Numbers were way down and early winter 2017 larvae surveys indicated a very poor spawn.  But suddenly in March, larval smelt began showing up in the CDFW 20-mm survey in San Pablo Bay and in the Napa River (Figure 1).  A bunch of adult longfin must have come in from the ocean and surrounding San Francisco Bay with this winter’s very high Delta outflows, and spawned in the Napa River.  While these larval densities are one or two orders of magnitude below previous wet year abundance (1999, 2006, and 2011), they are much higher than those observed in other years over the past decade.  Despite very low recruitment during the recent drought (2013-2015), they were able to muster enough 1-2 year-old adult spawners from around the Bay and nearby ocean to provide a decent spawn in the Napa River.  There appears to be some hope for longfin smelt after all.

Figure 1. Longfin smelt catch densities in March 2017 20-mm Survey. Source : CDFW 20-mm Survey.