Klamath River

Chinook Salmon Recreational Season to Open July 1 on Portions of Klamath and Trinity Rivers

Emergency fishing regulations for the spring Chinook salmon fishery in the Klamath River Basin have been extended and fall Chinook salmon quota and fishery regulations were adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission during their May teleconference meeting. Please note that the regulation changes are currently awaiting approval from the Office of Administrative Law. These regulations are in place because spring Chinook salmon are a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and currently under status review for potential CESA listing.

The spring Chinook salmon fishery on the lower Klamath River (downstream of the Highway 96 bridge at Weitchpec) and Trinity River (upstream of the confluence of the South Fork Trinity River) will open July 1 and run through Aug. 14 on the Klamath River and through Aug. 31 on the Trinity River. The daily bag limit has been set to one Chinook salmon (no size restrictions), and the possession limit set at two Chinook salmon.

The fall Chinook salmon fishery in the Klamath River will open Aug. 15, and in the Trinity River, the fall Chinook salmon season begins Sept. 1. The Klamath-Trinity basin in-river quota is 1,296 adult fall Chinook salmon for 2020.

Fall Chinook salmon regulations on length have changed since 2019, with the adult size now being greater than 23 inches total length (previously 22 inches). Bag limits will remain the same as 2019, with a two-fish daily bag limit, with no more than one fish over 23 inches (such as one adult and one jack). The possession limit remains the same at six fish, with no more than three fish over 23 inches (effectively three daily bag limits).

Additionally, the brown trout bag and possession limits have doubled; increased to 10 fish per day and 20 fish in possession throughout the basin.

The in-river recreational adult fall Chinook salmon quota is divided among four sectors in the Klamath River basin:

KLAMATH RIVER

  1. 3,500 feet downstream of Iron Gate Dam downstream to the Highway 96 bridge – 220 fish.
  2. Highway 96 bridge downstream to the mouth of the Klamath River – 648 fish.
    • There is a sub-area closure at the mouth of the Klamath River when 15 percent of the basin allocation has been harvested – 194 fish harvested below the Highway 101 bridge triggers this closure.

TRINITY RIVER

  1. Old Lewiston Bridge to Highway 299 West bridge at Cedar Flat – 214 fish.
  2. Denny Road bridge downstream to the confluence with Klamath River – 214 fish.

Please see the 2020-2021 California Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations and 2020-2021 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations for more information. Additionally, anglers can obtain information on Klamath Basin regulations and fall Chinook salmon quota updates by calling the Klamath-Trinity fishing hotline at (800) 564-6479.

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Media Contacts:
Dan Troxel, CDFW Northern Region, (707) 496-0869

Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Hatchery truck planting salmon smolts

CDFW Hatcheries Complete Release of 20 Million Young Salmon

Hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in the Central Valley just completed the final release of young Chinook salmon raised this year. More than 20 million young salmon, called smolts, raised in four state-run hatcheries were released in various locations throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems, the Delta, San Pablo Bay and into a coastal net pen. These fish will return as adults to Central Valley tributaries to spawn in two to five years. They will provide a bulk of the commercial and sport catch of Chinook salmon off the California coast. Similarly, annual returns of hatchery reared salmon provide a large portion of the in-river sport fishing catch of Chinook salmon.

“This year was especially challenging with the restrictions involved due to COVID-19,” said Colin Purdy. “But rearing, tagging and releasing these young salmon was vital and essential to the future of our Chinook salmon stocks in the Central Valley. The whole process started last fall when eggs were taken at the hatcheries.”

In 2019, an estimated 271,697 Chinook salmon were harvested off the California coast by commercial fishermen, while approximately 88,464 were caught by recreational anglers and inland river fishermen reeled in more than 28,000. The four Central Valley hatcheries operated by CDFW, and Coleman National Fish Hatchery operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, produced the bulk of the 2019 harvest. California’s commercial and recreational salmon fishery is estimated to generate more than $500 million in annual income.

Feather River Hatchery produced 6.4 million fall-run Chinook salmon and 1.75 million spring-run Chinook salmon. Nimbus Fish Hatchery produced 4.4 million fall-run Chinook salmon and Merced River Hatchery produced 1.1 million fall-run Chinook salmon. Mokelumne River Hatchery produced 4.3 million fall-run Chinook salmon for their mitigation program, and an additional 3 million (also fall-run) for the Commercial Salmon Trollers Enhancement and Restoration Program.

Once the hatcheries rear the young salmon, the second phase of CDFW’s work is to tag a defined portion of the total production with tiny coded wire tags to allow scientist to track their eventual contribution to sport and commercial fisheries and their return rates. The last stage is releasing them in a variety of locations and in a manner that balances maximum survival for commercial and recreational fisheries and protection of genetic fitness to ensure long-term survival of the species. Releases take place at various locations along their home rivers, downstream in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, and into net pens in San Pablo Bay or along the coast.

Giant tanker trucks specially modified to carry salmon smolts are used to release millions of smolts from late February until June. They deliver hundreds of thousands of smolts weekly, via more than 50 individual releases. In most cases three to five truckloads of smolts are delivered during each release. The Feather River Hatchery routinely releases smolts into San Pablo Bay, a 250-mile roundtrip, while the longest run is from Mokelumne Hatchery to Monterey, at 340 miles.

“The coordination and logistics of spawning, rearing, tagging, transporting and releasing millions of smolts is a challenging job under normal circumstances,” Purdy said. “More than 100 employees, from fish pathologists to hatchery managers, staff and truck drivers, have to be scheduled throughout the cycle, well in advance of final release of fish. In light of this year’s rapidly evolving conditions and challenges, the completion of our 2020 releases is an especially sweet success.”

Hatchery workers typically have a wide range of job skills, making it possible to keep operations running even though hiring, training and supervising new workers during the last few months was not possible.

Each of CDFW hatcheries receives operational funding from various water managers, utility districts and water districts to provide mitigation for habitat lost due to dams. In addition, more than $250,000 in funding was provided by the commercial salmon industry to help raise 3 million smolts to benefit commercial ocean salmon fisheries.

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Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 358-2943
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

CDFW Announces Publication of Rules for Ocean Salmon and Pacific Halibut

New annual federal regulations for ocean salmon and Pacific halibut fisheries for waters off California have taken effect. Federal regulations for Pacific halibut were published in 85 Federal Register 25317 on May 1, 2020 and were effective April 30, 2020, and ocean salmon regulations were published in 85 Federal Register 27317 on May 8, 2020 and were effective as of May 6, 2020.

Pursuant to California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.95, ocean salmon and Pacific halibut sport fishing regulations in state waters automatically conform to these new federal regulations.

Both the ocean salmon fishery and the Pacific halibut fishery opened on May 1. Anglers are reminded to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing. Anglers are also advised to check with local authorities on the status of harbor and access points as site closures and access restrictions may change daily.

The 2020 recreational ocean salmon season dates for the California coast are as follows:

  • In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California state line and Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude), the season will open June 6 and will continue through Aug. 9.
  • The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), respectively, opened May 1 and will continue through Nov. 8.
  • The Monterey area between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico border opened on May 1 and will continue through Oct. 4.

The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point. In the Monterey area the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of coho salmon (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

Next year’s April recreational ocean salmon season has also been determined at this time. In 2021, the recreational ocean salmon season will open April 3 south of Horse Mountain. The minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in the Fort Bragg management area and 24 inches total length south of Point Arena. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. The remainder of the 2021 ocean salmon season will be decided in April of next year.

The 2020 Pacific halibut season is scheduled to be open statewide seven days per week from May 1 through Oct. 31, or until the quota has been met, whichever is earlier. There is no minimum size limit for this species. The daily bag and possession limit is one fish. Again this year, the public can follow the progress of catch through the season on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Pacific halibut web page; however, updates to catch information may be offered less frequently than in prior years.

Public notification of any in-season change is made through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Ocean Salmon and Pacific Halibut Hotlines. Before engaging in any fishing activity for these species, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date information:

Ocean Salmon Resources:

Pacific Halibut Resources:

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Media Contacts:
Marci Yaremko, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 442-3004
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Salmon Seasons Adopted for the California Coast

While the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a delay to the April season along the California coast, salmon anglers can look forward to robust seasons ahead. On April 10, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) recommended the following 2020 season dates for the state’s four management areas:

  • In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California state line and Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude), the season is expected to open June 6 and continue through Aug. 9.
  • The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), respectively, are expected to open on May 1 and continue through Nov. 8.
  • The Monterey area, between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico border, is expected to open on May 1 and will continue through Oct. 4.

These seasons are the outcome of a months-long public process and reflect efforts to maximize recreational angling opportunity. They also consider the stock conservation objectives prescribed by the PFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for 2020. Most notably, the persistent low abundance of Klamath River Fall Chinook was a concern and resulted in limited time on the water along the north coast.

In addition to the challenge that a constraining stock introduces into the annual season-setting process, managers and stakeholders set seasons in the face of the looming uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to many anglers hoping to access the fishery. If state or local government orders render access to the fishery impracticable when opening day arrives, the PFMC’s recommendations include a contingency provision. In the event the Monterey, San Francisco and Fort Bragg areas do not open on May 1 due to COVID-19 restrictions, an extension of the season would be allowed in the most time-constrained Klamath Management Zone.

When the season opens, the minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point, and 24 inches total length in the Monterey area. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of coho salmon (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

Ocean salmon regulations in state waters automatically conform to federal regulations using the process described in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.95.

Public notification of any in-season change is made through the NMFS Ocean Salmon Hotline. Before engaging in any fishing activity for ocean salmon, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date information:

  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website, wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon
  • NMFS Ocean Salmon Hotline, (800) 662-9825
  • CDFW Ocean Salmon Hotline, (707) 576-3429

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Media Contacts:
Pete McHugh, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2870
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW fish hatchery planting trucks

CDFW’s Salmon Evacuation Decision Pays Exceptional Dividends

In February 2017, damage to the Oroville Dam’s spillways prompted the evacuation of more than 180,000 people living downstream along the Feather River. The raging muddy waters also triggered an emergency decision to relocate millions of young salmon from the Feather River Hatchery to the Thermalito Annex Hatchery to be raised and held until river water conditions improved. Most, if not all, of the young salmon would have otherwise died when mud from the raging river overwhelmed the hatchery waters.

About 2 million spring run Chinook and 5 million fall run Chinook were evacuated during the two-day flood event. Those fish survived and were later released to the wild – helping fuel a record class salmon harvest in the ocean two years later.

Last year, most of the rescued salmon had matured in the ocean and were ready for their migration home to the Feather River. Their survival helped power strong ocean fisheries with one of the largest commercial catches in decades. According to data collected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), approximately 272,000 salmon were harvested in the commercial fishery along with a catch of nearly 88,500 in the recreational ocean fishery, while returns to the Feather River basin exceeded 70,000 in 2019.

Ocean fishing activities were an economic stimulus for local communities and industries along the coast and inland. Commercial trollers landed 2.6 million pounds of salmon valued at more than $17.2 million, which was the highest level of harvest since 2013. The Feather River Hatchery was estimated to have contributed one quarter of all commercially harvested salmon and one third of the recreational ocean harvest.

“The return of the salmon released from Feather River Hatchery after the flood event was exceptional,” said Kevin Shaffer, CDFW Acting Chief of the Wildlife Branch. “At several points in the crisis, the majority (if not all) of the young salmon could have been lost. If not for the hard work, ingenuity and dedication of the hatchery employees and staff we could have ended up with nothing.”

The effort to save the young salmon began on Feb. 9 and 10, 2017. More than 60 people from CDFW, the California Department of Water Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and other agencies worked night and day to successfully transfer more than 5 million Chinook salmon to the Thermalito Annex hatchery facility nine miles away. Fisheries and engineering staff also constructed an emergency filtration system for the remaining salmon and steelhead at the Oroville facility, saving an estimated 1.5 million fall Chinook salmon fry that were too small to move and 1.6 million steelhead eggs which lead to a returning year class of 1,874 steelhead in 2018-19.

On March 20, 2017, the first salmon to be released after the evacuation were 1 million state and federally listed threatened spring-run Chinook salmon. They were released successfully into the Feather River. In all, a total of 2 million spring-run Chinook and 5 million fall-run Chinook were released.

Their work did not go unnoticed. Team members received a letter of appreciation from then-Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and were later presented with the CDFW Director’s “Team Award” for their ingenuity and dedicated work to save the salmon and steelhead eggs.

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Media Contacts:
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169
Jay Rowan, CDFW North Coast Region, (916) 358-2883