Although still too early to really tell, there are some encouraging reports about returns of adult salmon to the Central Valley this year. But there were also concerning reports from river guides in October suggesting all was not well.
Judging by the returns of adult salmon to the Mokelumne Hatchery, by mid-November hatchery managers thought they’d see another good year of returns, perhaps topping out at 14,000 to 15,000 which is good but less than the 18,000 they saw last year. Early reports suggested that perhaps 30,000 salmon would return to Battle Creek in the upper Sacramento Basin. Battle Creek is also the location of the Central Valley’s biggest hatchery, the Coleman National Fish Hatchery. Returns to the Feather River hatchery were easily enough for the hatchery to take the 20,000 adults it needs for eggs. One hatchery official was quoted in the press guessing this year’s return would be “average” which for the Feather, is around 50,000 adult salmon. The Stanislaus River was reporting about half of what it saw at this time last year when over 4,000 adult salmon swam up the river to spawn.
The National Marine Fisheries Service set a target of 160,000 salmon they wanted to see returning to spawn in the Sacramento Basin in 2019. It will be sometime in early 2020 when all the counting is done before we find out if that target was achieved.
Fertilized salmon eggs with eyes showing at Coleman Hatchery (can you tell which eggs are dead?)
Return of federally protected winter run salmon, which factor into each year’s ocean season setting process, appear to be good with reports of at least 6,000 adults. These salmon have already spawned and their eggs have hatched. Based on interception of baby winter run salmon downstream of the spawning beds in Red Bluff, as of mid-November 3.7 million baby winter run were calculated to have passed downstream. This is the highest in a decade when 4.4 million were counted in 2009. These fish still have big survival obstacles ahead as they spend the next four months navigating downstream, through the Delta, and out to the ocean. Spring, fall and late fall salmon have yet to be spawned and hatched so numbers on them won’t be known for months.
Rotary screw traps in Sacramento River capture baby salmon for counting