Category Archives: Water

Feather River Hatchery Salmon Ladder Now Open

The fish ladder at Feather River Hatchery in Oroville opened Monday, Sept. 18, signaling the start of the spawning season on the Feather River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers opened the gates in the ladder about 8 a.m. Normally more than 3 million spring-run eggs and 12 million fall-run eggs are taken over the next two months in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Visitors can observe the salmon through the viewing windows and from the observation deck located at the base of the fish barrier dam. At the main side of the hatchery, visitors can observe CDFW technicians performing the spawning process.

The public viewing areas have been repaired and are safe for the public after sustaining damage in the aftermath of the Oroville Dam spillway incident in February.

As the fall fishing season begins, CDFW reminds anglers to release any fish tagged with green and yellow Hallprint tags located on the dorsal fin. These tags have no monetary value and are used to identify spring-run salmon, a state and federally listed threatened species that cannot be possessed.

Thousands of school children tour the Feather River Hatchery each year. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at the Feather River Hatchery, please call (530) 538-2222. For information about hatchery tours, please call (530) 534-2306.

There are nine state-run anadromous salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Those hatcheries, along with federally run hatcheries, will be responsible for the release of 40 million juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon into California waters. These massive spawning efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, 100 percent of the spring-run stock and 25 percent of the fall-run stock will be adipose fin clipped and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart the survival, catch and return rates of the fish.

For more information about California’s fish hatcheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.

# # #

Media Contacts:
Penny Crawshaw, Feather River Hatchery, (530) 538-2222

Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

 

CDFW Completes 2017 Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its annual waterfowl breeding population survey.

The breeding population of mallards decreased from 263,774 to 198,392 (a decrease of 25 percent) and total ducks decreased from 417,791 to 396,529 (a decrease of five percent).

The decline was not expected, given the abundant precipitation. Low duck observations could be attributed to winter flooding of nesting habitat and the late flooding of rice in the Sacramento Valley.

CDFW biologists and warden pilots have conducted this annual survey using fixed-wing aircraft since 1948. The population estimates are for the surveyed areas only, which include the majority of the suitable duck nesting habitat in the state. Surveyed areas include wetland and agricultural areas in northeastern California, throughout the Central Valley, the Suisun Marsh and some coastal valleys.

The full Breeding Population Survey Report is can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/waterfowl.

The majority of California’s wintering duck population originates from breeding areas surveyed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska and Canada. Those survey results should be available in early August. CDFW survey information, along with similar data from other Pacific Flyway states, is used by the USFWS and the Pacific Flyway Council when setting hunting regulations for the Pacific Flyway states, including California.

###

Media Contacts:
Melanie Weaver, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3717

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Threatened Green Sturgeon Rescued from Fremont Weir, Returned to Sacramento River

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently saved a Sacramento River green sturgeon trapped in the Fremont Weir. The five-and-a-half-foot long fish was stranded in the nearly two-mile-long concrete weir when Sacramento River floodwaters receded. Sturgeon in this area are migrating up the Sacramento River to spawn above Red Bluff.

Sacramento River green sturgeon were listed as threatened by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.

“Rescuing adult fish is always important, but because this year’s high flow conditions are optimal for sturgeon, every sturgeon saved is in a good position to spawn,” said CDFW Fisheries Branch Chief Kevin Shaffer. “Every rescue contributes to a brighter future for the species.”

Captured on March 15, the sturgeon was estimated at more than125 pounds and over 50 years of age. Its large size required biologists to encircle it with a net rigged to poles. It was caught by slipping a hoop net over its head and unraveling a sock-like netting down the length of its body to subdue it. The fish was then placed in a specially-designed cradle for transport back to the main channel of the Sacramento River. Biologists took DNA samples, surgically implanted a sonic tracking tag and measured it prior to releasing it.

Rescuing breeding adults is vitally important to the future of the green sturgeon population. This individual’s opportunity to spawn in the future supports the genetic diversity and integrity of the population. Over the last few years, a number of green sturgeon have been acoustically tagged in the greater Sacramento-San Joaquin River system and are being tracked to better estimate population size, distribution and migration patterns.

Recent efforts to assist green sturgeon appear to be helping, according to NOAA green sturgeon recovery coordinator Joe Heublein. He recently stated that he is “cautiously optimistic” that production may start to increase with improvements to spawning habitat accessibility.

Under Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s “California Eco Restore” initiative, a $4.5 million construction project to improve Fremont Weir is slated to start this summer. The changes will improve fish passage back to the Sacramento River as bypass flows recede, reducing the risk of stranding for endangered and threatened salmon and sturgeon.

Recent rescue efforts have saved green and white sturgeon, young fall-, winter- and spring-run Chinook salmon, young and adult steelhead, a lamprey, two species of bass and a host of other native fish.

# # #

Media Contact:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

CDFW Releases First Million of Evacuated Fish into Feather River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released one million state and federally listed threatened spring-run Chinook salmon into the Feather River on Monday, March 20.

These were the first fish to be released that were evacuated from the Feather River Hatchery in Oroville on Feb. 9, when the water became dangerously murky following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway. The fish were moved to the Feather River/Thermalito Annex Hatchery and held there until conditions improved.

“Based on the weather forecast and current reservoir storage, we are anticipating high flows in the Feather River for some time,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Colin Purdy. “Releasing these fish now should allow them to imprint on Feather River water and move downstream before flows drop back down to normal levels.”Annex release 2

Central Valley spring-run Chinook are a state and federally listed species and their abundance has declined considerably during the recent drought. The Feather River Fish Hatchery plays a key role in the state’s efforts to propagate this unique run of Chinook salmon.

“Today’s fish release marks the success of federal and state agencies coordinating and managing valuable resources while ensuring public safety during a crisis situation,” said Howard Brown, NOAA Sacramento River Basin Branch Chief. “NOAA Fisheries remains deeply concerned with the damage of the Oroville spillways and is committed to reducing further threats to California communities and ecosystems.”

“This is another example of the extraordinary multi-agency effort to respond to this unfortunate incident,” said California Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle. “We will continue to work closely to protect the Feather River and its fisheries.”

Of the fish that were evacuated, another million spring-run Chinook and three million fall-run Chinook remain at the Annex Hatchery. CDFW and NOAA fisheries staff will continuously evaluate the remaining salmon and begin planting them in northern California Rivers when the fish are mature enough.

# # #

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries, (562) 980-4006

 

Northern California Hatchery Workers Save Millions of Trout and Salmon

Following recent heavy rains, workers at the Nimbus and American River hatcheries labored around the clock to prevent massive debris loads from clogging the main water supply for below Nimbus Dam. Their intense efforts to clean intake structures and adjust water flows during battering winds and rains saved millions of eggs and young fish over the 11-day ordeal.

After a winter deluge from Jan. 7-18, the two hatcheries’ main water source experienced clogging that affected the water distribution system, putting more than 5.5 million trout and salmon eggs and 3 million young trout, steelhead and salmon in peril.

hatchery-1
Hatchery worker cleaning debris from a holding tank

Both hatcheries are on a gravity water flow supply from the main intake screen at Nimbus Dam. There are no other filters until the water reaches each hatchery.

January storms swelled water levels at Folsom and Nimbus dams to the highest points since the El Niño floods of 1997-1998. The high flows resulted in a release of up to 60,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) from Nimbus Dam, while the normal rate is around 6,000-10,000 cfs. This huge water flow swept up debris that had collected above water line during the extensive drought. The debris clogged, overwhelmed and then incapacitated the automatic cleaning screen at the intake, compromising water flow to both hatcheries.

In a joint cooperative effort and at the height of the crisis, technicians from the Bureau of Reclamation devised a simple but effective way to quickly remove the debris clogging the main intake screen. They also bypassed systems that limited the time between cleaning cycles on the machinery, thereby allowing CDFW personnel to monitor the process 24 hours a day and keep water flowing to the hatcheries.

“It was a tense situation that called on our staff to work double shifts cleaning and operating the main intake structure screen and unclogging egg incubation jars inside each hatchery,” said Nimbus Hatchery Manager Paula Hoover. “They were working as fast as they could, 24/7, to save the fish.”

At American River Hatchery, the recent crisis threatened 1.4 million trout eggs in various stages of development, along with 1.7 million young trout. The fish and eggs were in danger of suffocation as the debris clog caused reduced oxygen levels and reduced the flow of water as much as 50 percent. Further complicating operations, the drum filter for the hatchery building was overwhelmed by the increased sediment, prompting workers to create a bypass to keep water flowing to the building.

The hatchery raises more than 2.5 million trout annually for planting in lakes, rivers and streams in 15 counties throughout northern and central California. More than a quarter of a million anglers utilize these waters for recreational fishing.

None of the Golden Trout rescued from the Volcanic Wilderness Area due to drought conditions were affected because they are housed in aquaculture systems that can be switched to 100 percent recirculation as needed. These Golden Trout will be kept at the hatchery until conditions in their natural habitat improve and they can be released back to the wild, likely in the late spring or early summer of this year.

At Nimbus Hatchery, 450,000 steelhead and 4.5 million salmon in various stages of development faced the same dire situation. Preparing for the worst, staff had emergency equipment ready to perform on-site releases of more than 250,000 year-old steelhead into the raging American River if conditions at the hatchery deteriorated further.

“The recreational and economic impact from potential loss of trout, salmon and steelhead from these two hatcheries would be substantial,” said North Central Region Fisheries Program Manager Kevin Thomas. “As usual, dedicated CDFW hatchery staff demonstrated exceptional care and effort, helping millions of fish survive to provide recreational, commercial and tribal fishing opportunities for California and the businesses they support.”

# # #

Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-2883
Dr. Mark Clifford, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (530) 918-9450
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908