16.8 million young hatchery salmon get truck rides to San Francisco Bay

Article from Stockton Record.


Dan Bacher
Published 12:57 pm PT May 4, 2021 – updated 1:00 pm PT May 4, 2021

All of the juvenile chinook salmon (smolts) from state fish hatcheries are getting truck rides to saltwater this spring to increase their survival, triggered by projected poor conditions in the Sacramento River and other Central Valley rivers this year.

Over 16.8 million young chinook salmon from four Central Valley hatcheries — the Feather River, Nimbus, Mokelumne and Merced facilities — will be trucked to release sites around San Pablo and San Francisco bays and in Half Moon and Monterey bays, according to the CDFW.

The CDFW said it will take approximately 146 individual truckloads traveling more than 30,000 miles between mid-April and early June to deliver all the fish.

John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association (GSSA), said the decision by the CDFW follows requests from the GSSA urging the state to take action.

On March 25, the GSSA, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources and the Coastside Fishing Club sent a letter to CDFW Director Chuck Bonham requesting “urgent action to maximize Central Valley hatchery survival in response to the highly restricted 2021 salmon season and developing drought conditions.”

Prior to CDFW’s decision to truck to the West Bay, McManus said GSSA staff did advance scouting, initiated and shared contacts of local land owners, and assembled and shared maps and photos with CDFW.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also decided to truck roughly 950,000 salmon smolts from the Coleman Hatchery near Redding to the West Bay.

“Although it won’t help this year’s restricted season, the trucking should produce a large number of 20” jacks by next year and allow a fishing season in 2023,” McManus said. “This will be especially valuable considering water temperature forecasts now show that water temperatures will likely be lethal for spawning salmon by fall unless the state acts to require added temperature protections.”

McManus said the need to truck hatchery fish in part stems from the “failure of state water managers to better balance water allocation to protect salmon and the environment.”

“Salmon fishermen and women are grateful for the trucking of hatchery salmon, but we mourn the loss of the state’s wild salmon runs caused by the failure of government to better manage finite freshwater sources in the Central Valley,” said McManus. “We hope the state will act to avoid the massive fish kills we saw in 2014 and 2015.”

The decision to truck the fish will add another three to four million fish that will contribute significantly to the fishery in the next few years.

“CDFW is utilizing lessons learned from the past 15 or more years of salmon releases and the last drought to maximize release success,” Jason Julienne, North Central Region Hatchery supervisor, said in a news release. “Trucking young salmon to downstream release sites has proven to be one of the best ways to increase survival to the ocean during dry conditions.”

Julienne said the massive trucking operation will transport around 20 percent more salmon around the Central Valley rivers and Delta than in typical water years.

In 8 of the past 10 years, combined state and federal Delta water exports have greatly exceeded the 3 million-acre-feet annual export figure that many believe to be the maximum amount of water that can be taken from the Delta without dramatically harming the ecosystem and fish species.

“If you don’t conserve enough water to maintain carryover storage to enable successful spawning and outmigration of salmon in a drought, then the CDFW has to truck the fish downriver to the bay so that fish are able to survive,” said Bill Jennings, chairman and executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).

Camanche/Amador trout: Anglers fishing with Robbie Dunham of Koke Machine Guide Service have caught early limits of rainbows at Lake Camanche and mixed limits of cutbow and rainbow trout at Lake Amador on his latest trips. He has been trolling Speedy Shiners at 20 to 50 feet deep at both lakes. Information: (209) 712-6611.

San Joaquin River stripers: Striper fishing on the San Joaquin River above the Antioch Bridge is “excellent,” said Jeff Soo Hoo of Soo Hoo Sportfishing. On Monday, the 5 anglers fishing aboard Soo Hoo’s boat kept 10 stripers and released another 50 fish, ranging from shakers to 15 pounds, while drifting minnows and jigging with spoons. Information: (925) 899-4045.

Contact Record correspondent Dan Bacher at danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

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