CDFW employee stocking eastern Sierra waters with trout

Fish Plants Continue in Eastern Sierra Waters

After a massive loss of fish at three hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California this summer, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has implemented an updated stocking plan to continue putting trout into waters that are popular with anglers.

Waterways in CDFW’s South Coast Region and Inland Deserts Region are typically stocked with trout from Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery, but this year, fish at all three facilities were contaminated by a bacterial outbreak. On July 20, CDFW announced that extensive effort to treat the fish had been unsuccessful, and pathologists recommended euthanizing 3.2 million fish and decontaminating the facilities in order to stop the spread of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus.

“Euthanization was not the outcome we hoped for, but after exhausting all treatments, it was apparent that clearing the raceways, sterilizing the facilities and starting over was the only option,” said Jay Rowan, CDFW’s Statewide Hatchery Program Manager.

Anglers were understandably concerned about reduced fishing opportunity for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, and CDFW Hatchery Program staff immediately began to construct a “Plan B” to ensure that planting could continue in some capacity.

CDFW’s multiphase stocking plan calls for the reallocation of fish from lower priority waters in other parts of the state to the highest use waters in areas normally planted by the depopulated hatcheries this time of year. During “phase one” (which began the last week of July and will run through mid-October), 16 water bodies in the Inland Desert and South Coast regions will be stocked with fish from the Moccasin Creek and San Joaquin hatcheries. During “phase two” (which runs from the second half of October through early spring), additional waters in Southern California will be stocked by Fillmore Hatchery. Phase two is dependent on water temperatures cooling enough to plant. During “phase 3” (spring and summer 2021), CDFW will address stocking for the trout openers and summer angling opportunities.

CDFW is still finalizing the list of waters, as well as fish numbers, that will be stocked in phases 2 and 3.

“The loss of 3.2 million fish is staggering, but we absolutely recognize the importance of these fisheries, and we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of this loss to anglers and the communities that depend on them, while balancing the needs of the rest of the state,” Rowan explained.

In addition to the reallocation plans, Hot Creek Hatchery near the town of Mammoth was not affected by the bacterial outbreak and has continued with its scheduled plants in the eastern Sierra.

Meanwhile, the three affected facilities – Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery – are undergoing extensive cleaning. All surfaces that have come in contact with fish or water on the hatchery grounds are being pressure washed, allowed to dry in the summer sun and then decontaminated with a hydrogen peroxide solution that breaks down the biofilm the bacteria uses to survive on surfaces. Another drying period follows. After decontamination is complete, all new fish and eggs brought into the hatcheries will have to be vaccinated to prevent a recurrence of the bacterial outbreak.

The current goal is for the three hatcheries to be back to full capacity by the fall or winter of 2021.

For real-time updates, California anglers can refer to CDFW’s Fish Planting Schedule. This schedule is updated directly by CDFW hatchery staff. Although it contains current information, all fish plants are subject to change depending on road, water, weather and operational conditions.

Trout fishing can be a safe outdoor activity that maintains physical distancing from others as we work to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Anglers must make sure to stay six feet from anyone not in their same household, wear a face mask, wash hands with soap and water whenever possible, follow all fishing regulations and stay safe.

For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak. Also, members of the public can email questions to hatcherybacteriainfo@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Bacterial Outbreak Forces Euthanization of Fish at Three Southern California Hatcheries

Three California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California have been battling a bacterial outbreak that has affected 3.2 million fish. This week, after consultation with fish pathology experts and exhausting all avenues of treatment, CDFW announced that the fish, which are all trout, at the affected facilities must be euthanized in order to stop the spread of the outbreak.

The affected facilities – Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Hatchery and Fish Springs Hatchery – usually provide fish for stocking waterways in CDFW’s South Coast Region and Inland Deserts Region. The euthanization of all the fish at these facilities will have a profound effect on CDFW’s ability to stock fish for anglers in those regions in the near future.

“Euthanizing our hatchery stocks was not a decision we came to lightly, but it had to be done,” said Jay Rowan environmental program manager for CDFW hatcheries. “This bacterium is resistant to all the treatment options we have available for fish. The fish losses were getting worse despite our treatments. The best option we have available that will get us back to planting fish from these hatcheries in the shortest timeline is to clear the raceways, thoroughly disinfect the facilities, and start over.”

CDFW has had the three facilities under quarantine for more than a month, while pathologists and hatchery staff treated the affected fish and researched potential options. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has been reported in cattle and poultry farms as well as fresh and salt water fish and shellfish hatcheries around the world, but had never before been detected in fish in California. Research of treatment options employed at trout farms in Europe and other parts of the world show there is almost no chance for successfully eliminating the bacteria from a facility without depopulation and disinfection.

Fish that are infected with Lactococcus garvieae can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely but there are several documented instances associated with immunocompromised people consuming infected raw fish and unpasteurized milk products.

Hot Creek Hatchery in the eastern Sierra has tested negative for the bacteria and is still planting eight waters in Inyo and Mono counties. CDFW is in the process of developing a modified stocking plan to reallocate fish from central and northern California hatcheries to a small number of high angler use, easily accessible waters in geographically distinct parts of the eastern Sierra and Southern California.

For real-time updates, California anglers can refer to CDFW’s Fish Planting Schedule. This schedule is updated directly by CDFW hatchery staff. Although it contains current information, all fish plants are subject to change depending on road, water, weather and operational conditions.

For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak. Also, members of the public can email questions to hatcherybacteriainfo@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Mojave River Hatchery raceway

Bacterial Outbreak at CDFW Hatcheries Temporarily Halts Fish Stocking in Southern California

Several California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) fish hatchery facilities in the eastern Sierra and Southern California are battling a bacterial outbreak that has the potential to cause significant losses to both hatchery and wild fish populations. The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus, has sickened fish at the Mojave River Hatchery and has been detected at both the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries. A fourth CDFW hatchery, Hot Creek Hatchery, was originally quarantined out of caution but after testing that quarantine has been lifted.

The L. garvieae bacteria has never before been detected in fish in California, and CDFW must take a cautious and careful approach to ensure the protection of the state’s aquatic resources – fish, hatchery facilities and public waterways. Infected fish can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on a several factors including water temperature and stress. Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely.

Fish stocking has temporarily been halted from the facilities under quarantine while hatchery staff treats the affected fish populations and takes measures to prevent the spread of the bacteria. Planting will resume when fish have recovered from the infections and fisheries pathologists have determined that they no longer present a threat to the environment.

“This is a challenge for our hatcheries because the bacteria is previously unknown in California, and we don’t have tried-and-true strategies on hand to combat it,” said Jay Rowan, environmental program manager for CDFW’s Hatchery Production and Fish Health Laboratory. “A successful approach will have three components: Treating the affected fish at the hatcheries, finding the origin of the outbreak, and planning ahead to contain and prevent the spread of the bacteria. Unfortunately, we may be in for a long battle here, which means there will not be a lot of fish plants in the near future in the eastern Sierra and Southern California. I wish we could give anglers a target date for when we think we can start planting again, but it’s all up to how fast and how well the fish respond to the treatments.”

Current treatment measures at the hatcheries include keeping water temperatures low, reducing stress due to crowding and other factors, introducing antibiotic medication and special diet in order to assist the fish in fighting off the infection. CDFW is currently investigating the source of the outbreak. For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the L. garvieae outbreak.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Hatchery Program, (916) 212-3164
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

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

steelhead trout

Public Comment Sought on Statewide Management of Trout

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will be soliciting public comment and ideas on the statewide management of trout at a series of public meetings.

“We are seeking stakeholder feedback on the development of three important elements of our statewide trout management efforts,” said Roger Bloom, CDFW Inland Fisheries Program Manager. “Our overall goal is make positive programmatic changes that will help ensure we’re getting the right fish in the right place at the right time.”

The three key areas for which CDFW are seeking input are:

  • The revision of CDFW’s Strategic Plan for Trout Management, last published in 2003
  • The creation of a new Strategic Plan for Trout Hatcheries
  • Simplification of inland trout angling regulations

Each meeting will include a brief presentation covering each area. CDFW personnel will be available at information stations to answer questions and listen to stakeholder interests, needs and ideas.

All stakeholder input will be taken into consideration as draft plans and a regulation simplification package are developed for formal public review. Stakeholders can fill out a short questionnaire online or at any of the following meetings:

Bishop
Place: Talman Pavilion, Tricounty Fairgrounds
Location: 1234 Fair Street
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Truckee
Place: Truckee-Tahoe Airport Community Room
Location: 10356 Truckee Airport Road
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Los Alamitos
Place: CDFW Los Alamitos Field Office
Location: 4665 Lampson Ave. #C
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sacramento
Place: Arcade Library Meeting Room
Location: 2443 Marconi Ave.
Time: 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sausalito
Place: Bay Model Visitor Center
Location: 2100 Bridgeway
Time: 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Date: Saturday, May 5, 2018

Fresno
Place: Betty Rodriguez Regional Library
Location: 3040 N. Cedar Ave.
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Date: Thursday, May 10, 2018

Redding
Place: Redding Library Community Room
Location: 1100 Parkview Ave.
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.
Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018

More information is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland/Trout-Plan. Meetings are in-person only and no conference line or webcast will be available.

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Media Contacts:
Roger Bloom, CDFW Inland Fisheries Program, (916) 445-3777
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1487