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

 

California ocean salmon catch

Delayed Opening of April 2020 Recreational Ocean Salmon Fishery for Much of the California Coast

California’s recreational salmon fishery will open in ocean waters on Saturday, April 4 in the Monterey management area, from Pigeon Point (37° 11’ 00” N. latitude) south to the U.S./Mexico border. In the Fort Bragg and San Francisco management areas, between Horse Mountain (40° 05’ 00” N. latitude) and Pigeon Point, the recreational salmon fishery will open on Saturday, April 11 rather than April 4. The Klamath Management Zone (Horse Mountain to the Oregon state line) will remain closed for the month of April. The remaining 2020 season dates will be finalized next month.

At its meeting this week in Rohnert Park the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) made the decision to open sections of the California coast on April 4 and April 11. The delayed opening will help managers achieve conservation goals for Klamath River fall Chinook, which are projected to return in low numbers this year, while providing anglers with opportunity to catch Sacramento River fall Chinook.

Traditionally, fishing in the Monterey area is better early in the season, prompting recreational fishing representatives to prioritize opening this area ahead of others on the California coast. Delaying the opener in areas to the north should allow for more fishing opportunity there later in the year, when catch rates are typically better.

Final season dates will be decided during the April 4-10 PFMC meeting in Vancouver, Washington. The public is invited to comment on the PFMC’s season proposals at that meeting or at a hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24 at the Red Lion Hotel, 1929 Fourth St. in Eureka. Comments can also be submitted through the PFMC website at www.pcouncil.org.

In April, the minimum size limit in the Fort Bragg management area is 20 inches total length. In the San Francisco and Monterey management areas, the minimum size limit is 24 inches total length.

Anglers are 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 at: wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon. Public notification of any in-season change to conform state regulations to federal regulations is made through the National Marine Fisheries Service ocean salmon hotline at (800) 662-9825.

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Media Contacts:
Pete McHugh, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2870

Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

ocean salmon

Fisheries Biologists Present California’s Ocean Salmon Forecast for 2020

At the annual Ocean Salmon Informational Meeting held in Santa Rosa today, state and federal fishery scientists presented updates on the numbers of California’s spawning salmon, as well as the expected abundance for the upcoming fishing season. The 2020 ocean abundance projection for Sacramento River fall Chinook (SRFC), a main salmon stock harvested in California waters, is estimated at 473,200 adult salmon, higher than the 2019 forecasts. The Klamath River fall Chinook (KRFC) abundance forecast of 186,600 adult salmon is lower than the 2019 forecast and will likely result in reduced fishing opportunity in the areas north of Pt. Arena.

“The outlook for Sacramento River fall Chinook is better than last year, but this season’s fisheries will be tempered by protections needed to conserve low numbers of Klamath River fall Chinook,” said Jennifer Simon, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ocean Salmon Project.

Recreational anglers and commercial salmon trollers at the meeting provided comments and voiced concerns to a panel of fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives. Stakeholder input will be taken into consideration when developing three alternatives for this season during the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting, which will be held March 3-9 in Rohnert Park. Final regulations will be adopted at the April 4-10 PFMC meeting in Vancouver, Washington.

The PFMC may take a conservative approach when crafting 2020 ocean salmon seasons since both SRFC and KRFC stocks are still considered to be overfished under the terms of the federal Salmon Fishery Management Plan.

For more information on the salmon season setting process or general ocean salmon fishing information, visit the Ocean Salmon Project web page or call the ocean salmon hotline at (707) 576-3429.

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Media Contacts:
Pete McHugh, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2870
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Two men with ocean salmon catch

CDFW to Host Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon Fisheries

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual Salmon Information Meeting. The meeting will feature the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries, in addition to a review of last year’s salmon fisheries and spawning escapement.

The meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa.

Stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April.

The 2020 Salmon Information Meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to develop annual sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing recommendations. The process involves collaborative negotiations with west coast states, federal and tribal agencies, and stakeholders interested in salmon fishery management and conservation. Public input will help California representatives develop a range of recommended season alternatives during the March 3-9 PFMC meeting in Rohnert Park. The PFMC will finalize the recommended season dates at its April 4-10 meeting in Vancouver, Wash.

A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public engagement in the season-setting process is available on CDFW’s ocean salmon web page, wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon/preseason.

The meeting agenda and handouts, including presentations, will be posted online as soon as they become available.

Persons with disabilities needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the public meetings or other CDFW activities are invited to contact the Accessibility Coordinator at (916) 653-9089 or send an email request to eeo@wildlife.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
Pete McHugh, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2870

Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8933

Angler holding north coast salmon

Fishing Report Cards Due Soon

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds anglers that Jan. 31, 2020 is the due date for turning in steelhead, sturgeon and north coast salmon report card data.

Information collected from sport fishing report cards provides CDFW biologists with important data necessary to monitor and manage California’s diverse recreational fisheries, including preparing recommendations for sport fishing seasons and limits that allow for sustainable levels of take. This science-based management helps to ensure healthy populations of fish for future generations.

Anglers are required to return their report cards even if they lost their report card, they did not fish or they did not catch any fish. Cards should be reviewed carefully for accuracy prior to submission.

There are two ways to meet the mandatory angler reporting requirement. Online reporting through the CDFW website is easy, fast and free, and includes instant confirmation that the report has been received and accepted.

Sport fishing report cards may also be returned by mail to the addresses listed below:

  • North Coast Salmon Report Cards
    CDFW – Klamath River Project
    5341 Ericson Way
    Arcata, CA 95521-9269
  • Steelhead Report Cards
    CDFW – Steelhead Report Card
    P.O. Box 944209
    Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
  • Sturgeon Report Cards
    CDFW – Sturgeon Report Card
    P.O. Box 944209
    Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

The Jan. 31, 2020 deadline does not apply to spiny lobster report cards. Spiny lobster report cards are due by Apr. 30, 2020, following the last day of spiny lobster season on March 18.

Please note that license sales agents cannot accept report cards. More information about report cards is available at wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing.

Media Contacts:
Xao Yang, CDFW License and Revenue Branch, (916) 928-5841

Tim Daly, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944