Warm Springs Hatchery Begins Spawning Operation for Russian River Steelhead

Ninety-six Russian River steelhead were spawned Feb. 20 at Warm Springs Hatchery, marking a strong but late start for the hatchery’s annual steelhead spawning operation.

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The Russian River and its tributaries comprise one of the most significant steelhead populations in the Central Coast area of California. The Russian River watershed also provides important habitat for endangered Coho and Chinook salmon. Although steelhead normally begin entering the river with the first heavy rains in the fall and can be found throughout the river and its tributaries through April, this year little rain fell from November through the first week in February, creating extremely low river conditions and few opportunities for steelhead to move into and up the river system.

Low water conditions in January also allowed the naturally occurring sandbar to form at the mouth of the river, blocking the migration of steelhead.

“Once the first rains hit in February, the sandbar blocking the mouth of the river washed out, allowing the steelhead to move in from the ocean into the river system,” said Brett Wilson, Senior Hatchery Supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “Based on what we are seeing right now, we should be able to meet our goal of taking enough eggs to rear a half million young steelhead for release into the Russian River.”

Emergency regulations that went into effect Feb. 19 closed most of the Russian River to fishing, adding extra protection for migrating steelhead and salmon.

March is an excellent time to visit the hatchery and view the steelhead moving through the concrete fish ladder into the restored stream habitat leading to the hatchery. A visitor viewing area also provides excellent photographic opportunity.

“The new restoration stream habitat just outside the hatchery intake gives visitors a chance to see steelhead up close and in native type of habitat,” Wilson said.

Warm Springs Hatchery is the end of a lengthy migration for the hatchery produced steelhead. From the Pacific Ocean, they enter the Russian River at Jenner and travel 40 miles upriver to Dry Creek near Healdsburg before following the stream 14 more miles west to the hatchery. Steelhead are also spawned at Coyote Valley Fish Facility on the East Fork of the Russian below Lake Mendocino.

The steelhead are generally held captive one week before the eggs are artificially taken. Spawning is open to the public and occurs throughout the entire season on most Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. The steelhead eggs spawned at the Hatchery and the Coyote Valley Fish Facility are incubated, hatched and reared at the hatchery for one year before they are released back into the Russian River to begin their migration to the sea.

Warm Springs Hatchery is located just below Warm Springs Dam on Lake Sonoma, approximately 14 miles above the confluence of Dry Creek with the Russian River at an elevation of 322 feet. The hatchery began operation in 1980 and is designed to produce a maximum of 161,300 pounds of salmonid fish annually. Although the hatchery is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), it is operated by CDFW. CDFW also operates the Coyote Valley Fish Facility for trapping and spawning adult steelhead and imprinting steelhead destined for release in the Russian River. The Coyote Valley Fish Facility is located upstream on the east branch of the Russian River near the town of Ukiah.

Warm Springs Hatchery is a mitigation hatchery that produces steelhead to enhance the river’s natural steelhead population required due to the loss of natural spawning and rearing habitat associated with the construction of the Warm Springs and Coyote Valley dams. The mitigating agency is the USACE. The Warm Springs Hatchery is also home to the Coho Salmon Broodstock Program, which produces coho for release to 21 tributaries of the Russian River as part of a multi-agency recovery effort for this endangered species.

Media Contact:
Brett Wilson, Senior Hatchery Supervisor, (707) 433-6325
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

Steelhead swimming upstream to Warm Springs Hatchery

Steelhead swimming upstream to Warm Springs Hatchery

CDFW Hot Creek Hatchery to Host First Trout Fest

The Hot Creek Hatchery in Inyo County will host its first family-friendly Trout Fest on Saturday, June 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Trout Fest is a free fishing celebration that introduces people to the sport of trout fishing and gives the public a close up view of the millions of trout on site and hatchery operations.

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CDFW staff and volunteers teach attendees the basics of trout fishing from knot-tying to catching, cleaning and cooking trout.  Fly-fishing groups will demonstrate the art of fly-tying, casting and catch-and-release techniques.

Children can feed the fish in the raceways and try their hands (literally) at catching a trout in the either the raceway or the onsite ponds. Art activities will run continuously, including gyotaku, the traditional Japanese art of fish printing, wildlife stamp tattoos and face painting.

The trout tasting booth features grilling demonstrations, free recipes and samples of foil-wrapped barbecued trout.  CDFW will also feature its 1928 Dodge Hatchery Planting Truck, and wildlife officers will be on hand to answer questions and demonstrate how their K9 units operate. Visitors  will be able to see various life stages of trout up close in the living stream display.

Admission to the Trout Fest and all related activities are free. All tackle is provided. No outside tackle or rods are allowed. Children 15 and under can fish with a one-fish limit.

The Hot Creek Hatchery is located about 37 miles north of Bishop, or 3.5 miles south of the junction of U.S. Highway 395 and State Route 203, near the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport, follow the signs for parking.

Media Contacts:
Jana Lerian, CDFW Region 4, (559) 539-6644
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW Law Enforcement Active at Eastern Sierra Trout Opener

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers contacted more than 3,000 anglers while patrolling the local waterways in Inyo and Mono Counties during the trout season opener that started April 27. Over the opening weekend, 17 CDFW wildlife officers issued 60 citations, 43 warnings and made one arrest.

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Violations included over-limits of trout, fishing closed waters, fishing without a license, use of prohibited gear and bait, fishing out of season, angling in a hatchery, snagging, boating without a fire extinguisher, no life jackets, boating under the influence, excessive speed and use of multiple poles.

Officers also conducted a wildlife checkpoint operation to promote safety, education and compliance with law and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.

On Tuesday, April 30, the southbound lanes of U.S. 395 were reduced to one lane and all vehicles traveling south on U.S. 395 were screened by the Department’s law enforcement officers.  Screening consisted of an introduction and brief questions.  Approximately 2,000 vehicles were contacted. Of those, 250 vehicles submitted to an inspection. A total of 14 violations were found which included 11 over-limits of trout, one driving without a valid driver’s license, one unregistered vehicle and possession of scales and drug paraphernalia.

Average screening took less than 20 seconds per vehicle and the average inspection took about 2 minutes, 20 seconds per vehicle.  If violations were found, the occupants were detained for an average of 28 minutes to conduct the inspection, interviews and issue citations.

Anglers found in violation of the trout limit were returned their legal possession limit of 10 trout per person; the excess trout above the legal limit were seized.  A total of 88 seized trout were donated to the California Department of Forestry conservation camp.

The Department provided informative literature about the invasive quagga mussel and New Zealand mud snail to help reduce the spread of these invasive species.

Media Contacts:
Lt. Bill Daily, CDFW Law Enforcement, (760) 872-7360
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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