All posts by Chris Cocoles

Feather River Hatchery’s Opening For Salmon Spawning Business

Feather River Hatchery photo by CDFW.

The fish ladder at Feather River Hatchery in Oroville opened Monday, Sept. 18, signaling the start of the spawning season on the Feather River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers opened the gates in the ladder about 8 a.m. Normally more than 3 million spring-run eggs and 12 million fall-run eggs are taken over the next two months in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Visitors can observe the salmon through the viewing windows and from the observation deck located at the base of the fish barrier dam. At the main side of the hatchery, visitors can observe CDFW technicians performing the spawning process.

The public viewing areas have been repaired and are safe for the public after sustaining damage in the aftermath of the Oroville Dam spillway incident in February.

As the fall fishing season begins, CDFW reminds anglers to release any fish tagged with green and yellow Hallprint tags located on the dorsal fin. These tags have no monetary value and are used to identify spring-run salmon, a state and federally listed threatened species that cannot be possessed.

Thousands of school children tour the Feather River Hatchery each year. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at the Feather River Hatchery, please call (530) 538-2222. For information about hatchery tours, please call (530) 534-2306.

There are nine state-run anadromous salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Those hatcheries, along with federally run hatcheries, will be responsible for the release of 40 million juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon into California waters. These massive spawning efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, 100 percent of the spring-run stock and 25 percent of the fall-run stock will be adipose fin clipped and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart the survival, catch and return rates of the fish.

For more information about California’s fish hatcheries, please

Ducks, Geese Looking Good In DU’s 2017 Forecast

Waterfowl stop to rest during winter migration. Photo by Debra Hamilton/CDFW

If Ducks Unlimited’s annual waterfowl forecast is an indication, there should be no shortage of birds in the Pacific Flyway.

Here’s what DU had to say about the Pacific Flyway:

The Pacific Flyway receives most of its waterfowl from the western United States and Canada, with the majority of ducks and geese coming from Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alaska, and other western states. In southern Alberta, an estimated 6.4 million breeding ducks were surveyed this spring—a 28 percent increase from the 2016 estimate and 49 percent above the long-term average.

“The breeding season started with average to above-average spring runoff and cool, wet conditions that may have delayed early breeding efforts,” reports Ian McFarlane, a biologist with DU Canada. “Summer precipitation was near normal in the south, but temperatures have been high, which has decreased water levels. However, semipermanent wetlands remain full in the aspen parkland and Boreal transition zone. There was a good late hatch and numerous large broods have been reported by our field staff.” …

In the United States, above-average precipitation improved wetland conditions across much of the West following several years of severe drought. In California, improved production of mallardsgadwalls, and cinnamon teal was expected following one of the wettest winters on record. In Oregon, breeding duck numbers were similar to last year’s estimate and the long-term average, while in Washington, total ducks were up dramatically compared to both last year’s estimate and the long-term average.

The outlook is good for Pacific Flyway goose populations. Weather and habitat conditions were generally favorable for breeding geese in Alaska, and large fall populations of cacklingRoss’slesser snow, and white-fronted geese are expected. Surveys indicate that Pacific brant numbers were similar to last year’s estimates and the 10-year average. 

Most waterfowl seasons in California get going in October.

Interior Sec. Zinke Asks Government Agencies To Find New Fishing, Hunting Access

From our Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott:

Federal land managers are being directed to figure out how to provide more fishing and hunting access under a directive signed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today, a move lauded by sportsmen’s groups.

It follows on troubling news earlier this week that participation in hunting dropped by 2.2 million between 2011 and 2016, but could help open more lands, so key to the opportunities we enjoy.


“The more people we can get outdoors, the better things will be for our public lands,” said Zinke in a press release. “As someone who grew up hunting and fishing on our public lands – packing bologna sandwiches and heading out at 4 a.m. with my dad – I know how important it is to expand access to public lands for future generations. Some of my best memories are hunting deer or reeling in rainbow trout back home in Montana, and I think every American should be able to have that experience.”

His order calls for:

  • The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to come up with plans within four months for expanding access to hunting and fishing on their lands;
  • Amend management plans for national monuments to specifically ensure hunting and fishing on them;
  • Identify federal lands where those activities are limited;
  • Expand outreach to underserved communities;
  • Develop a “one-stop” website outlining sporting opportunities on all Department of Interior lands;
  • And improve wildlife management collaboration with states, tribes, conservation groups and others.

Ducks Unlimited was supportive, particularly the part of Zinke’s order calling for “significantly” increasing waterfowl populations through habitat projects, as well as more hunting opportunities.

“Wetlands are not only a valuable resource for our nation’s waterfowl, but they also benefit more than 900 other species of wildlife,” noted Dale Hall, DU CEO, in a press release. “Investments in the conservation of wildlife habitats, like wetlands, are vital in preserving, protecting and advancing our nation’s long hunting and angling heritage. At the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring that all Americans and those generations to come, have access to the wildlife and wild places that we enjoy today.”

In recent years, USFWS has gradually been increasing waterfowl, big game and fishing opportunities on Northwest refuges and those across the country.

Land Tawney of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said his organization looked forward to working with Zinke and Interior.

“Our hunting and fishing traditions rely on both conservation and access, with insufficient access being the No. 1 reason cited by sportsmen for forgoing time afield,” Tawney said in a press release. “The importance of Secretary Zinke’s commitment to sustaining and expanding public access opportunities to the outdoors, therefore, cannot be overstated.”

Others supporting the move included the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as well as National Rifle Association.

“For too long, sportsmen’s access to our federal lands has been restricted, with lost opportunity replacing the ability to enjoy many of our best outdoor spaces. This extension to Secretarial Order 3356 will go a long way to reversing that trend and help grow the next generation of hunters, fishermen, and recreational shooters,” added Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a press release. “I appreciate this new order and am committed to working with Secretary Zinke and my colleagues to do everything we can to expand and enhance access to our federal lands for all Alaskans, and all Americans, so that we can continue our rich sportsmen’s heritage.”

Dismal Numbers For Winter-Run Chinook

CDFW photo by Harry Morse

In this episode of depressing salmon news … check out this press release from the Golden Gate Salmon Association: 

San Francisco  — The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, (CDFW) estimates that only 1,123 adult winter run salmon returned to the Central Valley in 2017, according to a report sent to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.  This is the second lowest number of returning adult winter run salmon since modern counting techniques were implemented in 2003, undercut only by the 824 that returned in 2011.

In 2014 and 2015, the years these fish were born, state and federal fish agencies reported losses of 95 percent of this and other groups of salmon.  The losses were caused by water management choices by the federal Bureau of Reclamation during the drought which failed to retain enough cold water for release from Lake Shasta for successful spawning. Barely adequate cold water supplies existed early in 2014 and again in 2015 when GGSA and others warned the Bureau of Reclamation of the peril facing winter run salmon.  The warnings fell on deaf ears. Elevated river temperatures killed most of the salmon eggs incubating in the river.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) defines water temperatures needed by winter run as well as where these temperatures need to apply and for how long.  After the high losses of California’s salmon stocks in 2014 and 2015, NMFS is now moving to strengthen cold water protections for winter run but is meeting resistance.

“If we don’t want extinction on our watch, state and federal leaders need to support stronger protections for salmon in the rivers of the Central Valley where most California salmon come from,” said GGSA executive director John McManus. “The low number of winter run salmon that survived the drought to return this year makes crystal clear the need for NMFS to greatly increase temperature protections for these fish in the upper Sacramento Valley where they reproduce.”

Fishery managers have known since 2014 to expect low numbers of adult salmon in 2017, since most return to spawn at age three. Ocean sport and commercial salmon fishing has been constrained to avoid contact with the few winter run survivors, at a great cost to some harbors.

“The economic damage to our salmon runs and ocean salmon fishery didn’t seem to match the concern federal water managers showed for other competing interests when drought forced hard choices,” said GGSA vice chairman Mike Aughney.  “The damage demonstrates the need for federal fishery managers to do the job they’re paid to do, which is protect the fishery resources many of us rely on.”

Winter run salmon are listed as endangered by the federal and state governments.  The CDFW report says it’s possible a few more may be counted in the next several weeks and a final estimate will be available by early October.

CDFW estimates the majority of this year’s returning winter run (83 percent) were hatchery-origin.  Hatchery origin winter run born in 2014 were given adequate cold water for egg hatching and rearing in the controlled hatchery environment while their natural origin cousins were being killed off in the river.  Knowing that conditions in the river would likely turn lethal, hatchery managers produced more salmon in 2014 than usual.

“The federal water managers who refused to reserve the cold water needed by salmon in 2014 would like the current consequences to go unseen, something GGSA won’t agree to,” said GGSA secretary Dick Pool.  “The federal fishery managers at NMFS who had the power to force more protective water management actions at the time didn’t.  Federal and state fish agency heads need to learn from this.”

The Golden Gate Salmon Association ( is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.



General Deer Season Starts Soon, Barring Closures

Photo by CDFW.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

Deer season is already underway in California’s A and B4 deer hunting zones along the coast, but the majority of general zones – B1-B3, B5, B6, C1-C4, D6 and D7 – open Saturday, Sept. 16.

Several other deer hunting zones – D3-D5 and D8-D10 – open the following week, on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Severe winter weather conditions took a toll on some migratory deer populations and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reduced the number of tags for a few popular areas in order to sustain herds over the long term. Not all populations suffered heavy winter losses, however, and CDFW’s trail cameras and fecal DNA studies revealed bucks out there for the taking.

“One benefit from the above-average rain and snowfall this winter is that we did see an early green-up,” said Stuart Itoga, senior environmental scientist and the CDFW’s deer program coordinator. “Plentiful forage and water are generally helping deer populations recover from multiple years of drought.”

Detailed information on California’s various deer zones, including season dates, descriptions and maps, is available at CDFW’s Deer Hunting webpage:

Hunters are strongly advised to check area closures and local restrictions before heading out. Fire season is here and several large wildfires are burning currently, which may close some areas to hunting. Additionally, the severe winter damaged roads in some areas, which may account for other closures or restricted access. Information on area closures is available at

For the 2016 season, a record 84 percent of deer tag holders complied with California’s new mandatory deer tag reporting requirement. CDFW thanks all those who reported and hopes for increased participation following the 2017 season. The reports are vital to estimating populations and setting tag quotas for the coming hunting season. Tags can be reported online at Tag holders may also submit reports by mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002.

California is phasing-in the use of nonlead ammunition for hunting. Lead ammunition is permitted for hunting deer in California in 2017 outside of the California condor range, state wildlife areas or ecological reserves where nonlead ammunition is required. Learn more about California’s phase-in of nonlead ammunition for hunting at


Last Chance For California’s Halibut Fishing

Photo by CDFW.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The recreational Pacific halibut fishery will end Sunday, Sept. 10 at 11:59 p.m. for the remainder of 2017. Based on the latest catch projections, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) expects to have met the 2017 California recreational quota of 34,580 pounds.

California’s 2017 quota was approximately 5,000 pounds greater than the 2016 quota. The fishery lasted 86 days this year, compared with 83 open days in 2016. CDFW tracks the fishery inseason to ensure catch amounts do not exceed the California quota. The quota is determined annually through an international process, and is largely driven by results from the annual stock assessment conducted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC).

Pacific halibut occupy a large geographic range, from the Aleutian Islands eastward through Alaska to British Columbia and throughout ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest. Along the West Coast, they are commonly found as far south as Point Arena in Mendocino County.

CDFW field staff sampled public launch ramps and charter boat landings to monitor catches of Pacific halibut along with other marine sportfish throughout the season. Using this information, CDFW conferred with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the IPHC and the Pacific Fishery Management Council on a weekly basis to review projected catch amounts and determine when the quota would be attained. Formal authority to close the fishery resides with NMFS, which took action to close the fishery following consultation with CDFW.

For current information about the Pacific halibut fishery, science or management, please check one of the following resources:

Waterfowl Hunting Clinic In Los Banos

Greenwing teal photo by CDFW.

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Advanced Hunter Education Program is offering a waterfowl hunting clinic on Saturday, Sept. 9 at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos. The clinic will be taught by CDFW Warden Chris Giertych. Giertych is a lifelong waterfowl hunter with years of experience hunting in the Grasslands area around Los Banos.

Participants of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, are welcome to attend. The clinic will cover the basics of hunting waterfowl, with the goal of developing ethical and conservation minded hunters.

Topics will include duck calling, hunter safety, decoy placement, blind design, ballistics, regulations, game care and information specific to hunting on state and federal waterfowl management areas.

The clinic will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There is no charge, but space is limited to 35 people, so please register early. To register or for more information, please visit or contact Lt. Alan Gregory at

Kings Are Buzzing On The Feather River


Photos by MSJ Guide Service.


Our friend Manny Saldana Jr. of MSJ Guide Service provided us with the following report on Feather River Chinook fishing:


Some beautiful, bright king salmon are being caught from the middle section (Yuba City) to the upper parts of the Feather River.
Above are some pictures of some nice bright kings being caught on KF16 Brads Killer fish lure and back-bouncing salmon eggs.
Armondo, Tino and Luis, had lots of fun on the Feather.  We are fishing from Live Oak boat ramp to the Outlet upstream. Salmon are being caught while back-bouncing Brads Killer fish lures in the KF16 size with a sardine wrap on it and back-bouncing salmon roe. Other anglers are having success casting our Bluefox’s lures in the shallow sections of the upper rivers.
MSJ Guide Service
(530) 301-7455

Celebrate Labor Day Weekend With Free Fishing Day 2

Photo by CDFW


The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) encourages all Californians to give fishing a try for free on Saturday, Sept. 2.

CDFW annually offers two Free Fishing Days, typically around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends (the first of the two Free Fishing Days in 2017 was held July 1). On these two days, people can fish without having to buy a sport-fishing license. Free Fishing Days also provide an easy opportunity for licensed anglers to introduce non-angling friends and children to fishing and the outdoors.

All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements and fishing hours and stream closures, remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for steelhead, sturgeon, spiny lobster or abalone anywhere in the state, or for salmon on the Smith River.

CDFW reminds anglers that recreational salmon fishing in the Klamath-Trinity river system remains closed this season due to very low predicted adult returns.

Anglers residing in urban areas also have opportunities to fish close to home. Trout from CDFW hatcheries are stocked in urban waters when the water is cold and adequate to sustain trout. Some CDFW regions also offer Fishing in the City, a program that allows children to learn to fish for catfish and trout in major metropolitan areas. For more information on the Fishing in the City program, please visit

For more information on Free Fishing Days, please visit, and a video on Free Fishing Days can be viewed at  All anglers should also check the rules and regulations at for the waters they plan to fish because wildlife officers will be on duty to enforce them. In addition, information on CDFW trout and inland salmon stocking is available at and a fishing guide can be viewed at

Coalition Formed To Help Salmon Numbers


California’s struggling salmon runs have the attention of state and federal agencies, so it’s important to bring together the experts to find a solution as to how to improve the numbers. Hence, The Central Valley Salmon Habitat Partnership.

Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle with more on the new organization:

The Central Valley Salmon Habitat Partnership will include 21 members — state and federal water and wildlife agencies, plus groups representing conservationists, farmers, water suppliers and the fishing industry — seeking to study, develop and fund projects to restore and protect vital habitats.

The partnership deal was signed Tuesday by John Laird, California’s secretary for natural resources.

“This group will take meaningful, decisive action to restore the types of habitat — in the right places — that these fish need to survive and even thrive,” said Curtis Knight, executive director of the conservation group California Trout.

 The Central Valley rivers and tributaries are historically the second most productive habitat for salmon on the West Coast, behind the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.

But dams, channels, and the destruction of wetlands and floodplains over the past century have impeded access to spawning grounds, ruined food sources and made salmon vulnerable to predation. Steelhead trout and two of the four distinct runs of Chinook salmon are now listed as threatened or endangered.