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.

###

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:

###

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

May 1 Recreational Ocean Fishery Openings to Proceed as Planned, Anglers Reminded to Strictly Follow State and Local Health Guidelines

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announces the recreational ocean salmon, groundfish and Pacific halibut fisheries scheduled to open May 1 will proceed as planned.

However, anglers are reminded to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing. Staying home in order to stay healthy is still the best way to keep yourself and others safe. Anglers are also advised to check with local authorities on the status of harbor services and access points as many site closures and access restrictions exist and may change daily.

The ocean salmon fishery will open May 1 in the Fort Bragg, San Francisco and Monterey areas [Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude) to the U.S./Mexico border], while the boat-based groundfish fishery in the Northern and Mendocino management areas [Oregon/California state line to Point Arena (38 °57.5” N. latitude)] will open as well. The groundfish fishery in other California management areas remains open. The Pacific halibut fishery also will open statewide on May 1.

Federal regulations establish recreational fishing seasons for California’s ocean salmon, groundfish and Pacific halibut fisheries, following recommendations made by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The California Fish and Game Commission adopts regulations for state waters to match the federal season dates.

Please check the following resources for more information on these fisheries:

###

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

###

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

Delay in California’s 2020 Recreational Ocean Salmon Opener

California’s recreational ocean salmon fishery will be delayed statewide through the month of April, despite plans made earlier this year for the fishery to open in some locations as early as this Saturday, April 4.

The delay is the result of an in-season action taken Tuesday by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), on advice from the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) salmon industry advisors and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The April delay is a response to physical distancing requirements and widespread closures of launch ramp facilities, charter boat operations and restrictions to harbor and marina access due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Delaying the opener of the fishery will reduce impacts to stocks of concern and provide more fishing opportunity later in the summer months than would otherwise be possible.

The April delay negates the opening dates previously scheduled for the Monterey, San Francisco and Ft. Bragg management areas that had been announced in CDFW’s March 10, 2020 press release. The Klamath Management Zone (Horse Mountain to the Oregon state line) will also remain closed.

Recreational salmon season dates and regulations that will take effect on or after May 1 in all areas of California will be determined at the April 5-9 PFMC meeting, which will be held via webinar due to the COVID-19 health crisis. To learn more about how to attend and participate virtually, as well as provide input on existing season proposals, please visit the PFMC’s website at www.pcouncil.org.

Anglers are always advised to check for updated information when planning a salmon fishing trip. Season dates, bag/possession limit information and gear restrictions can be found on CDFW’s ocean salmon web page. Public notification of any in-season change to conform state regulations to federal regulations is made through the NMFS ocean salmon hotline at (800) 662-9825.

CDFW reminds Californians that everyone has the responsibility to flatten the COVID-19 curve by maintaining physical distance from other people of 6 feet or more when recreating in the outdoors, and staying home if they are sick.

###

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