Chinook Salmon

CDFW Awards $10.7 Million for Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 27 projects that will receive funding for the restoration, enhancement and protection of anadromous salmonid habitat in California watersheds.

The grants, which total $10.7 million, were awarded through CDFW’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP). Established in 1981, FRGP has included funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund since 2000. The federal fund was established by Congress in 2000 to reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

“The ongoing momentum to restore California’s habitat for these historic species hasn’t stopped as we face a global pandemic and devastating wildfires,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Awarding these projects highlights the resilience, passion and vison for salmon recovery by our state’s restoration community, for which we are grateful.”

In response to the 2020 Fisheries Habitat Restoration Grant Solicitation, CDFW received 80 proposals requesting more than $40.6 million in funding. As part of the competitive grant program, proposals underwent a rigorous technical review by CDFW and NOAA scientists.

The 27 approved projects will further the objectives of state and federal fisheries recovery plans, including removing barriers to fish migration, restoring riparian habitat, monitoring of listed populations, and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality and habitat) that can better withstand drought conditions. These projects further the goals of California’s Water Action Plan and CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as addressing limiting factors specified in state and federal recovery plans.

The list of approved projects is available on the FRGP website.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 216-7848
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Feather River Fish Hatchery Steps in to Raise Inland Chinook Salmon Eggs Amid Glass Fire

In addition to destroying and threatening thousands of homes and businesses, the devastating Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties jeopardized the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Inland Chinook Salmon Program – until the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville came to the rescue. The Feather River Fish Hatchery is owned and maintained by the California Department of Water Resources – and operated by CDFW.
 
Each year, CDFW raises approximately 800,000 Chinook salmon smolts and fingerlings for planting and recreational fishing in large foothill and valley reservoirs from Fresno County to Trinity County. These landlocked salmon often grow quite large and fill an ecological and recreational angling niche in these deep-water impoundments not typically occupied by other fish species.
 
The state record inland Chinook salmon came from Trinity Lake in 2013 weighing 20 pounds, 15 ounces. Anglers regularly catch inland Chinook salmon weighing 7 to 8 pounds at Lake Oroville and 5 to 6 pounds at Folsom Lake.
 
The inland Chinook salmon originate with eggs collected and spawned at the Feather River Fish Hatchery each fall from salmon returning to the Feather River. The eggs and fish are excess to the hatchery’s annual production goals. About 1.4 million Chinook salmon eggs were collected from the Feather River Fish Hatchery in early October and designated for the Inland Chinook Salmon Program.
 
Ordinarily, most of these eggs are taken to CDFW’s Silverado Fisheries Base in Napa County for incubation, where they remain until the baby salmon are big enough for stocking. The Silverado Fisheries Base suffered power outages and came under threat of evacuation as a result of the Glass Fire.
 
In response to the emergency and with assistance from CDFW’s Inland Chinook Salmon Program staff, temporary adjustments were made at the Feather River Fish Hatchery to keep the eggs, incubate them and grow out the salmon until the Silverado Fisheries Base is once again able to accommodate the fish, likely in November.
 
CDFW staff set up additional fish-rearing incubators in their Inland Chinook Salmon Building. That building typically only has space to hold 300,000 eggs and baby salmon destined for Lake Oroville. Thanks to the extra effort, the Feather River Hatchery is now holding 1.4 million eggs that represent the entire annual production of the state’s Inland Chinook Salmon Program.
 
“Understanding the inherent risk of losing an entire year’s production, CDFW staff will play a crucial role in ensuring future inland Chinook fisheries in Folsom, Oroville and eight other lakes and reservoirs,” said Kyle Murphy, a senior environmental scientist with CDFW’s Fisheries Branch. “This interagency teamwork will have long-reaching effects for thousands of anglers in central and northern California.”
 
Adding to the stress, the Feather River Fish Hatchery itself was ordered to evacuate for a day Oct. 15 due to a nearby fire in Oroville. Both the Oroville fire and the Glass Fire have been contained and no longer pose threats to either facility.
 
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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 212-3164
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714
 
  • Feather River Hatchery exterior
  • Egg trays at Feather River Hatchery
  • Tanks at Feather River Hatchery

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

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:

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Media Contacts:
Marci Yaremko, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 442-3004

Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937