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Spring Run Salmon Restoration in San Joaquin River – Some Questions

Pilot study release of Feather River hatchery smolts at the Golden Gate. (DFW photo)

Pilot study release of Feather River hatchery smolts at the Golden Gate. (DFW photo)

50,000 Spring Run Chinook smolts from the Feather River Hatchery will soon be released into the San Joaquin River near Merced, as was the case in 2014 and 2015. The action is part of the effort to restore Spring Run to the lower San Joaquin below Friant Dam near Fresno. The smolts each have a coded-wire tag in their nose and an adipose fin clip so their survival can be monitored.

So how have the first two releases fared? Were any collected in Delta surveys, at south Delta pump salvage facilities, in Chipps Island trawls, ocean fisheries, spawning surveys? Data available now from these surveys should be providing early indications of success rates for comparison with other restoration programs. After all, it is an adaptive management program.

Given that the last three years have been dry years especially in the San Joaquin, I do not hold out much hope for the survival of these three years of smolt releases. I hope I am wrong, but information is lacking on the first two releases. Did any make it down the river to the South Delta pumps? Did any make it to the Bay (Chipps Island trawls)?

If not, then some adjustments should be made this year.

  1. Hatchery trucks from Fresno could travel further downstream to the Delta or Bay.
  2. Smolts could be barged from Merced or Stockton to the Golden Gate (see photo above).1

At a minimum, some early indicators would help us all see some progress for the program and deflect the naysayers who would write off the whole program.2