Coho Salmon Identification is Critical in California’s Ocean Fisheries

Coho salmon

Coho salmon

Media Contacts:
Alex Letvin, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-3456
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reminds ocean sport anglers to be vigilant about properly identifying their salmon before keeping them. The ocean salmon fishing season in California is well underway and proper identification is critical for the survival of coho (or silver) salmon, a protected species.

Chinook (or king) salmon is the primary species targeted in California’s ocean waters. The retention of coho salmon, however, is prohibited in all California ocean fisheries in order to protect Central California coast and Southern Oregon-Northern California coast coho stocks. Both stock complexes are severely depressed and listed under both state and federal endangered species acts.

The current drought in California is likely adding further stress to these coho stocks. Thus, it is especially crucial this year to avoid any unnecessary mortality when handling and releasing coho salmon.

Ocean sport anglers will most likely encounter coho during early summer. Taking the time to correctly identify each salmon caught before removing it from the water can maximize survival of released coho. Netting or dropping a coho salmon onto the deck of a boat can cause both scale loss and trauma that will likely reduce its chance of survival when released.

The most reliable method for identifying coho is through examination of the lower mouth and gums. The gums at the base of the bottom teeth on a coho salmon are gray, whereas Chinook gums are all black. Another way to distinguish a coho from a Chinook is to rub a finger along the fin rays of the caudal (tail) fin. The fin rays on a coho will feel rough like the edge of a dime, whereas the fin rays on a Chinook are smooth.

To help avoid coming in contact with coho salmon, anglers should rig their trolling gear to fish deeper as coho are more often found in the top 30 feet of water. Using larger lures that select for the larger Chinook salmon will also reduce chances of hooking a coho salmon.

For complete ocean salmon regulations, please visit the Ocean Salmon webpage at: www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.aspor call the Ocean Salmon Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

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Coho Salmon Identification is Critical in California’s Ocean Fisheries

Media Contacts:
David Moore, DFG Region 3, (707) 766-8380
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reminds sport anglers to be vigilant about properly identifying their salmon before keeping them. The ocean salmon fishing season in California is well under way and proper identification is critical for the survival of a protected species of salmon.

Coho salmon

Coho salmon

Chinook (or king) salmon is the primary species targeted in California’s ocean waters (although a few pink salmon are caught occasionally). However, the retention of coho (or silver) salmon is prohibited in all California ocean fisheries, specifically to protect central coast and southern Oregon-northern California coast coho stocks. Both stocks are severely declining and listed under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.

Coho salmon have existed in California coastal waters for thousands of years. Today, however, their populations have declined to just a fraction of their historical levels, endangered by a wide range of factors. Coho salmon populations along the coast from the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz County north to the Smith River in Del Norte County have reached a critical state of decline. Spawner escapement numbers are below those required for sustainable populations and constitute a crisis for coho salmon survival on the California coast.

In most years, sport anglers begin catching coho salmon in the ocean fishery around mid-May. Coho catches generally peak during June and then gradually decline throughout the remainder of summer. Although some of these fish may have originated from hatcheries in Oregon and Washington, many are native California coho and any retention in California ocean fisheries has been prohibited since 1995. California ocean fisheries are managed to provide for the maximum access to abundant Chinook stocks while still protecting depressed California coho populations.

Sport fishing enthusiasts can significantly help California coho stocks by taking the time to correctly identify each salmon caught before removing it from the water (netting or dropping a coho salmon onto the deck of a boat can cause both scale loss and trauma that will likely reduce its chance of survival when released). Coho salmon should be identified through examination of mouth and gums. The base of the bottom teeth on a Chinook salmon are all black whereas coho salmon have a narrow light gray band. A photo guide is viewable online at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=36125&inline=true. Although not as often caught in ocean waters, steelhead cannot be targeted or taken during the ocean salmon season. Steelhead show no black color on lower jaw and tongue.

To help avoid coming in contact with coho salmon, anglers should rig their lines to fish deeper as coho are more often found in the top 30 feet of water. Anglers should plan to fish nearer to shore for Chinook salmon as coho salmon are typically found farther offshore. Using larger lures that select for the larger Chinook salmon will also reduce coho salmon catch. The daily bag limit remains two salmon of any species except coho salmon. For complete ocean salmon regulations, please visit the Ocean Salmon webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.asp or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

Sport anglers are also reminded that coho salmon may also be found in coastal rivers and streams. Retention of coho salmon in any California inland salmon fishery has been prohibited since 1998. Protecting coho salmon in the ocean, as well as in streams and rivers, is an essential step in recovering this important salmon species.

DFG Releases Adult Coho Salmon into Sonoma County Creek

Media Contacts:
Manfred Kittel, DFG Coho Salmon Recovery Coordinator, (707) 944-5522
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) recently released adult coho salmon in Salmon Creek, Sonoma County to reestablish a coho salmon population.

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This is the fourth consecutive year adult salmon were released. This year 200 adults were released on two separate occasions in late December 2011 and early January 2012. The released coho included 120 males and 80 females, predominantly hybrids derived from mating between coho salmon of Russian River and Olema Creek origin, with a small number of pure Russian River coho and Olema Creek coho.

“We are at a critical moment in the survival of the coho salmon on the California coast,” said Manfred Kittel, DFG Coho Salmon Recovery Coordinator. “DFG and our federal and environmental partners must take aggressive actions to save the species from becoming extinct in central California.”

As in previous years, this year’s fish were released near the mouth of Salmon Creek with the hope that the fish will migrate upstream to find suitable spawning habitat in one of Salmon Creek’s tributaries. Despite the general lack of rain this season, biologists are optimistic that the recently released coho should be able to find spawning habitat in some upstream portions of Salmon Creek and its tributaries.

The release of adult coho in Salmon Creek is a joint effort between DFG, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other entities, including private landowners. The Salmon Creek access site is located a few miles north of Bodega Bay on the Chanslor Ranch owned by George Gross.

“The entire coho recovery team appreciates Mr. Gross allowing us to access the creek on his property for the past four years,” said Kittel. “There are few optimal places where adult coho can be released and we appreciate the help we get from Chanslor Ranch.”

In 2008, 2009 and 2010 field biologists collected tissue samples and confirmed that the released coho spawned successfully in several tributaries and in all possible mating combinations.

Fish surveys planned for the coming summer in the Salmon Creek watershed will tell DFG biologists whether the latest released group of adult coho salmon has reproduced successfully and whether any of the progeny from the first release in winter 2008 have returned this season from the ocean to spawn in the watershed where their life’s journey began three years ago.

Releasing hatchery-reared adult coho salmon is a relatively new technique that has the advantages of not requiring spawning in a hatchery, allowing the released fish to establish natural mating patterns and subjecting their offspring to natural selective pressures from birth on.

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DFG to Hold Public Meeting on Coho Salmon

Media Contacts:
Neil Manji, DFG Northern Regional Manager, (530) 225-2363
Jordan Traverso, DFG Communications, (916) 654-9937

One juvenile coho salmon swims above rocks in Northern California stream.

Juvenile coho salmon

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will be in Fort Jones on August 16 to discuss coho salmon in the Shasta and Scott valleys. A community meeting will be held that day from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fort Jones Community Center on 11960 East Street. DFG will provide an update on the status of coho salmon and request that certain landowners temporarily reduce diversion amounts to maintain water for rearing coho at strategic locations.

Although this past spring and early summer were unusually wet, stream conditions in key locations of the Shasta and Scott river watersheds important to rearing coho salmon are deteriorating.

Coho salmon in the Shasta and Scott River watersheds are currently listed as a “Threatened” species under the Federal and State Endangered Species Acts. Biologists have been monitoring coho salmon populations in the Shasta and Scott rivers since 2001 and results indicate precipitous declines in their numbers.

Coho salmon must stay in fresh water for approximately 18 months before entering the ocean to grow and mature. Young coho salmon need cold well-oxygenated water to survive as well as the ability to move from one location to another as conditions change.

In 2011, more than 800 coho salmon spawned in the Scott River and its tributaries. This represents the largest adult returns in some time, as well as strong juvenile production. Protecting these fish is an essential step in recovering the species.

For the past several weeks, DFG has been performing annual fish rescue activities by removing coho and other fish species from drying sections of streambed and relocating them. So far this season, 2,885 coho salmon have been captured and relocated from Kidder and Patterson creeks. DFG staff believes fish rescue will be required in other tributaries of the Scott and Shasta rivers unless additional water for these fish is made available.

Endangered Coho Salmon Return to Russian River

Media Contacts:
Manfred Kittel, DFG Bay Delta Region, (707) 944-5522
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988

Coho smolts

Scientists working on the recovery of endangered coho salmon in northern California appreciate success even if it comes in small doses. Field biologists from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) are reporting the largest number of coho returning to spawn in Sonoma County tributaries of the Russian River in more than a decade.

Most of these fish were released as fingerlings into the river system, as part of a captive broodstock program at Don Clausen Warm Springs Hatchery on Lake Sonoma. The broodstock program began 10 years ago, when wild coho salmon were rapidly vanishing from the region.

Prior to the launch of the recovery program in 2001, the number of returning adult coho salmon averaged less than four per year. These low numbers were the catalyst for the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program, a recovery effort in which offspring from hatchery-reared adults are released into the river system.

This year, biologists estimate that more than 190 adult coho may have returned to the Russian River system, beginning with early storms in October and peaking in December. Promisingly, a few coho are being sighted in creeks that are not stocked, utilizing habitat beyond those tributaries in which coho are released.

“We are hopeful that coho salmon released through this program will continue to return to the Russian River system in increasing numbers and begin to establish self-sustaining populations,” says Manfred Kittel, Coho Salmon Recovery Coordinator for DFG’s Bay Delta Region. “The program is a cornerstone of coho salmon recovery efforts in central California, but the number of fish observed this year must be seen in perspective. A healthy coho population should number in the tens of thousands in California.”

Coho salmon abundance has declined dramatically statewide in the past few years. Biologists believe that additional captive breeding efforts and other focused recovery measures will likely have to be instituted to prevent widespread extinction of coho salmon in central California.

Coho salmon in central California are listed as an endangered species under both the State and Federal Endangered Species Acts. It is against the law to catch them anywhere in the state.

The Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program is a broad coalition of government agencies, scientists and private landowners dedicated to bringing back productive salmon runs. Its members include DFG, which manages the hatchery component at the Don Clausen Warm Springs Hatchery, University of California Sea Grant Extension, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Sonoma County Water Agency.

CDFW to Hold Public Meetings on Proposed Low-Flow Closure of the Russian River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold two public meetings to discuss the proposed low-flow closure changes to the Russian River and North Central Coast streams.

The first meeting is Wednesday, July 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, 5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A, in Santa Rosa. The second meeting is Thursday, July 31 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Gualala Community Center, 47950 Center St. in Gualala near the intersection of Center Street and South Highway 1.

A CDFW representative will detail the proposed regulation changes. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Van Nuys in December.

The Russian River and other North Central Coast streams provide critical life-stage habitat for coastal Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout. All three of these species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Coho salmon is also listed under the California ESA.

CDFW is preparing regulatory changes for Title 14, Chapter 3, Article 4, section 8, part (b) to add low-flow fish restrictions to the Russian River and base the closure of North Central Coast streams on one or more stream gauges on rivers that are more representative of these North Central Coast streams than the current regulated flows of the Russian River. These proposed regulatory actions are based upon fishery impact concerns that have arisen during the past three years of drought conditions. During the past two winters, salmon entering these streams were forced to congregate into the remaining pools below restricted passage areas, and then were subject to heavy angling pressure. In both years the Russian River and North Central Coast streams have dropped to mere trickles, yet have remained open to fishing till an emergency closure was enacted by the Fish and Game Commission in February 2014. This emergency action expired on April 30, 2014.

The two public meetings are being led by CDFW to solicit public comments regarding the regulatory changes that are proposed to protect these ESA-listed fish while still providing sport fishing opportunities. In addition to these public meetings, individuals and organizations may submit comments in writing. The written comments can be sent by email to ryan.watanabe@wildlife.ca.gov, or by mail addressed to CDFW, Bay Delta Region, Attn: Ryan Watanabe, 5355 B Skylane Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

 

Media Contacts:
Ryan Watanabe, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (707) 576-2815
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW and Partners Raid Santa Cruz County Marijuana Grow

Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and other agencies arrested two suspects, cut down marijuana plants and removed hazardous materials from a Santa Cruz county waterway on July 15.

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Acting on an anonymous tip on the CalTIP line, wildlife officers — with assistance from CAL FIRE, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Cruz County Code Enforcement — raided an illegal marijuana cultivation site in the upper reaches of the south fork of Vicente Creek off Robles Drive near Bonny Doon. The site had been set up on private property without the landowner’s permission and was diverting water from the creek.

Officers arrested two male suspects and cut down and removed 180 fully mature marijuana plants with an approximate value of $360,000. Officers also found and removed several pounds of hashish, fertilizer, dozens of butane canisters used to manufacture concentrated cannabis, and other harmful materials that cause direct damage to the environment of Vicente Creek. CDFW officers conducted a full reclamation of the site.

“These marijuana cultivation sites are not only illegal but the trash left behind causes tremendous damage to the environment,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “Our officers are working hard around the state to find and remove these cultivation sites, keep harmful chemicals from entering state waters and ensure public safety.”

Marijuana cultivation is becoming an increasing problem in California as the historic drought wears on.

“Illegal marijuana growers steal substantial amounts of water, exacerbating our severe drought conditions,” said Naslund. “Marijuana plants use six to eight gallons of water per plant, per day, and are a direct hazard to wildlife that eats the plants.”

Law enforcement officials are also concerned that that hikers and walkers could be in danger if they accidentally come across a marijuana cultivation site. Illegal growers often carry weapons.

The suspects were taken into custody and will be charged with multiple violations including streambed alteration, pollution and placement of hazardous materials on the property of another.

The lower Vicente Creek is the southernmost salmon stream in California. It is a historic waterway that supports both anadromous steelhead and endangered Central Coast Coho salmon.

CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Media Contact:
Lt. John Nores, CDFW Enforcement, (408) 591-5174
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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Recreational Ocean Salmon Fishing Opens North of Horse Mountain May 10

Media Contacts:
Alex Letvin, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-3456

Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

Recreational ocean salmon fishing in the Klamath Management Zone (KMZ), the area between the Oregon/California state line and Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude), will open May 10 and continue through Sept. 7 with a 24-inch minimum size limit.  KMZ-area anglers should be conscious of closures at the mouths of the Klamath and Smith rivers throughout the season, as well as a closure at the mouth of the Eel River during August and September.

Fishery biologists predict moderately large numbers of Klamath and Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon along California’s coastal waters, providing substantial fishing opportunity. In areas south of Horse Mountain, the recreational ocean salmon season opened on April 5 and continues through Nov. 9 in the Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas. In the Monterey-south area, the season ends Oct. 5.

“Along the Central Coast, ocean anglers have experienced some good fishing up until this point,” said Marci Yaremko, CDFW Environmental Program Manager with the Marine Region. “Many of the sport anglers that fished in Monterey Bay on opening weekend had their limits by 9 a.m.”

Statewide, the daily bag limit is two salmon of any species except coho. New this season, the salmon possession limit has been changed to two daily bag limits when on land; however when on a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit.

Anglers should be aware that minimum size limits differ among management areas. In the Fort Bragg area, which extends from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38° 57’ 30” N. latitude), there is a 20-inch minimum size limit.  In the San Francisco area, which extends from Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37° 11’ 00” N. latitude), there is a 24-inch minimum size limit through the end of June, and a 20-inch minimum size limit thereafter. For areas south of Pigeon Point, including the Monterey Bay area, there is a 24-inch minimum size limit throughout the season.

North of Point Conception (34° 27’ 00” N. latitude), not more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler is allowed when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. When fishing with bait by any means other than trolling between Horse Mountain and Point Conception, barbless circle hooks are required.

These seasons and minimum size and bag limits were adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission and the Pacific Fishery Management Council during their public meetings held in April.

For complete ocean salmon regulations, please visit the ocean salmon webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.asp or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline (707) 576-3429.

 

 

Recreational Ocean Salmon Season to Open South of Horse Mountain on April 5

Media Contacts:
Barry Miller, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2860
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478Marine sports salmon fishing

The California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announce the recreational salmon season will open in ocean waters on Saturday, April 5, 2014, from Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude) south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Federal fishery biologists estimate roughly 934,000 fall-run Chinook salmon will be in California coastal waters through the summer. Though lower than last year’s estimate, there are still plenty of fish to allow for significant angling opportunities for salmon enthusiasts in all areas off California.

The daily bag limit will remain at two Chinook salmon but the Commission recently took action to change the salmon possession limit. Two daily bag limits are now allowed in possession when on land; however, when on a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit.

The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length between Horse Mountain and Point Arena (38° 57’ 30” N. latitude). For areas south of Point Arena, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length. For anglers fishing north of Point Conception (34° 27’ 00” N. latitude), no more than two single-point, single-shank barbless hooks shall be used and no more than one rod per angler when fishing for salmon or fishing from a boat with salmon on board. In addition, barbless circle hooks are required when fishing with bait by any means other than trolling. The retention of coho salmon is prohibited in all ocean fisheries. For complete ocean salmon regulations in effect during April, please visit CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/oceansalmon.asp or call the Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429.

Final 2014 ocean salmon regulations will be decided next month by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) during their April 4-10 meeting in Vancouver, Wash. and by the Commission at their April 16-17 meeting in Ventura. Final sport regulations will be published in the CDFW 2014 Supplemental Fishing Regulations booklet available in May at www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations.

Three alternatives are being considered for California’s recreational ocean salmon seasons that will begin on or after May 1. The public is encouraged to comment on any of the proposed alternatives, which can be found at the PFMC website at www.pcouncil.org.

Anglers Urged to Return Fish Tags in Timely Manner

North coast steelhead and salmon anglers are reminded to return fish tags to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in a timely manner. Tag return information is a vital tool for biologists as they calculate harvest and estimate population size of Chinook, coho and steelhead runs.

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“We’ve had people send us huge envelopes with several years’ worth of tags, but the information is only useful in the same season the fish are caught, ” said Mary Claire Kier, CDFW Trinity River Project Environmental Scientist. “We need anglers to send in their tags right away, before they get lost or forgotten in tackle boxes or pockets of fishing vests.”

Please return all Trinity River fish tags, by mail or in person, to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
5341 Ericson Way
Arcata, CA  95521

A tag return form can be found online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/fish/Fishing/Monitoring/FTag/.  Anglers can also simply send the tags wrapped in or taped to a piece of paper with their name, address, date and location that the fish was caught or the tag was found. Please specify if the fish was caught live or found dead, or if the tag was found loose. If the tag was found on a caught fish, please note whether the fish was kept or released.

If the tag is being returned by mail, please cut the knot off of the tag as the knot can cause the envelope to catch in the postal sorting equipment.

Media Contacts:
Mary Claire Kier, CDFW Trinity River Project, (707) 822-5876  
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

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