Mokelumne River salmon come back in big numbers

Article from RecordNet.

By Dan Bacher
Posted Dec 17, 2019 at 6:41 PM
Updated Dec 17, 2019 at 7:10 PM

Large numbers of fall-run Chinook salmon have returned to the Mokelumne River in Clements this fall despite challenging salmon fishing on the river and adjacent sloughs this season.

A total of over 12,658 salmon have gone over Woodbridge Dam in Lodi as of Dec. 10, according to William Smith, manager of the CDFW’s Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery.

“We will probably see just over 13,000 fish this fall,” Smith said. “We’re seeing an above normal season, although anglers reported slow fishing in the river.”

The hatchery trapped 2,168 adult males and 3,324 adult females, along with 2,063 jacks and 560 jills (2-year-old fish). The hatchery has taken 7.9 million eggs to date.

A record number of fall-run Chinook salmon, 19,954, went over Woodbridge Dam in the fall of 2017, the highest number since 1940. The 2018 fall salmon returns were also impressive, with a total return of 17,474 fish.

These record runs have contributed greatly to the ocean recreational and commercial fishery over the past couple of years. The Mokelumne, a relatively small river, provided 33 percent of the Central Valley fall Chinooks caught in the recreational fishery and 43 percent of the commercial fishery in 2018, according to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).

Hatchery staff plan to raise and release 6.8 million smolts into the San Joaquin River and other sites in the spring of 2020. They will put 3.8 million of these in the San Joaquin and 3 million in the ocean for enhancement purposes.

The steelhead runs have increased dramatically in recent decades also. A record number of adult steelhead, 719, returned to the hatchery in the winter of 2017. The facility has trapped 367 adults so far this season.

Smith cited their studies on the best times to release fish as key factors in their success on salmon, including releasing salmon at the top times to take advantage of tides and limiting the number of consecutive releases to avoid predation.

“The Mokelumne is one of the success stories in bringing back fisheries,” said Bill Jennings, Chairman/Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). “The current salmon and steelhead runs are the result of a long struggle in the state and federal courts and state regulatory agencies. The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) became a proactive partner in restoring the Mokelumne. But we still have to get fish into the habitat above rim dams and we have to fix the Delta.”

Anglers are currently gearing up for the steelhead opener on the upper section of the Mokelumne below the hatchery. The steelhead season from below Camanche Dam to Elliot Road is from Jan. 1 through March 31 and again from the Fourth Saturday in May through Oct. 15. The limit is one hatchery trout or one hatchery steelhead. Information: (209) 759-3383.

San Joaquin River Stripers: Boaters are catching limits of stripers while drifting mudsuckers and live jumbo minnows on the San Joaquin River near Eddo’s Harbor.

“We didn’t catch any hogs today, but we landed our share of stripers,” said James Netzel of Tight Lines Guide Service on Sunday. “We caught maybe 15 keepers and another 35-40 shakers. The four anglers kept their limits.”

The previous trip by Netzel produced limits of stripers up to 28 inches for five anglers. Information: (888) 975-0990.

Camanche/Amador Trout: Shore anglers throwing Power Bait, nightcrawlers and Kastmasters and trollers fishing spoons and Rapalas are landing big trout. Camanche is being planted weekly with rainbows, while Amador is being stocked every week with cutbows. Camanche information: (209) 763-5121. Amador information: (209) 274-4739.

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