All posts by Chris Cocoles

CDFW: Rodenticides Poison Killed Two Endangered San Joaquin Kit Foxes

CDFW photo


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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is investigating the poisoning of two San Joaquin kit foxes found dead in Bakersfield last month. Although the foxes were found ten miles apart, the cause of death was the same: exposure to high levels of the second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide, brodifacoum, which resulted in severe internal bleeding and hemorrhaging. The carcasses were discovered by residents of Kern City and north Bakersfield who reported them to the Endangered Species Recovery Program (ESRP), a local conservation group that monitors kit foxes in the city and greater Central Valley. ESRP has been working closely with residents in both areas, as this urban kit fox population has declined in recent years due to a fatal outbreak of sarcoptic mange.

San Joaquin kit foxes are only found in California and are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Despite the many obstacles kit foxes face in the wild, most notably due to habitat loss, they seem to be thriving in the Bakersfield area and have become beloved city residents. This urban population is increasingly more important to the survival of the species as natural habitats disappear. However, city living is risky. Urban kit foxes are more likely to die from vehicle strikes, dog attacks, entombment, diseases transmitted by domestic pets or invasive wildlife, and poisoning from anticoagulant rodenticides. Rodents are kit foxes’ primary food item, which makes them terribly vulnerable to poisons ingested by rodents. When they eat rodents that have been poisoned with these baits, they’re exposed to those rodenticides.

Due to their harmful impacts on non-target wildlife — including hawks, owls, bobcats and mountain lions — second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides are now restricted in California. Since July 2014, four of these chemicals can only be legally sold to and used by professional exterminators. CDFW urges residents to help protect kit foxes by using alternate means of rodent control such as exclusion, sanitation and trapping, and to ask any pest control professionals they employ to do the same.

To learn more, please visit our webpage at For more information, please call or email the CDFW Wildlife Investigation Laboratory at (916) 358-2954 or

If you find a San Joaquin kit fox that appears to be impaired, please contact the CDFW or ESRP at (661) 835-7810.


Great Numbers For Mokelumne River Chinook

Things are going well for steelhead and especially Chinook at the Mokelumne River Hatchery. 


Mokelumne River Hatchery photos from CDFW

Here’s more from’s Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Salmon crowded in and around the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery on Thursday, offering leaping and squiggling proof of what so far is a near-record return of the big pinkish delicacies after several years of low breeding numbers.

Schoolchildren watched as the fall-run chinook squirmed on conveyor belts into the “egg take” building, where, with help from about a dozen hatchery workers, they engaged in the decidedly unromantic process of spawning the next generation.

“It’s going to be one of the top three or four years that we’ve seen since 1940,” said Jose Setka, the manager of fisheries and wildlife for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which supplies Mokelumne River water to 1.4 million East Bay customers. “We are getting more of our fish back where they belong.”

 The large number of salmon, which are inspired by the first rains of the season to swim upriver and spawn, validate the effectiveness of a series of streambed, habitat and health improvements made over the years by the utility and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


As of Thursday, 13,799 chinook, each weighing as much as 31 pounds, had fought their way from the ocean up the Mokelumne into the Clements facility, compared with 4,129 at this time last year. With about a month left in the season, the record of 18,000 salmon, set in 2011, is within reach.

Steelhead numbers are also way up for the second consecutive year, with more than 350 fish having returned to the hatchery — and it is still early season for the wild cousins of rainbow trout, which usually spawn through early March. Last year, a record 600 steelhead returned.

 “Before last year a good year would be about 100 steelhead, but we had over 600 last year, and we’re on track to beat that this year,” said Ed Rible, a fisheries biologist for the utility district.




Day Two Results Of Los Cabos Big Game Classic

Californian Kieran McSween of Middletown (Lake County) won junior angler honors with this dorado. (BONNIER CORP.)

The following press release is courtesy of the Bonnier Corp.:

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (Nov. 16, 2017) — The fifth annual Los Cabos Big Game Charter Boat Classic, the only free-entry fishing tournament on the Baja California Peninsula, entered day two on Wednesday as a growing fleet of 110 boats departed from three ports: Cabo San Lucas, East Cape and San Jose, Mexico. Both the weather and the fishing improved, providing anglers ideal conditions for a day on the water.

Anglers fishing out of Cabo followed up their day one sweep of the dorado category with a repeat performance on day two. Tom Holste from Steamsville, Maryland, led the way with a 16.4-pound entry caught on Sushi Time I, earning him a check for $1,800. Second place was brought to the scales by Murrieta, California, angler Rita Muiter on The Blue Marlin, whose 13.7-pound fish was good for $900. The third place prize of $635 was awarded to Mike Chau from Vacaville, California, for his 12.3-pound catch while fishing aboard Dream Catcher.

The wahoo bite was hot in San Jose and Cabo on day two as several impressive catches made their way to the scales. Angler Keith Ross from Lafayette, California, got things started by boating a 35.1-pound wahoo on Jacqueline for first place and $1,800. Next up was James Moore from Delaware, Ohio, whose 34.1-pound entry caught on Hard Effort earned second place and $900. Filling out the category was angler A.J. Summers from Winnetka, Illinois, with a 33.9-pound catch on Jacqueline for $635.

Several nice tuna were also landed on day two of the tournament. David Martin from Hudson, Colorado, took the top prize of $1,800 with his impressive 97.6-pound tuna on Killer II out of San Jose. The second place award of $900 went to Richard Jones for his 83.3-pound entry while fishing on Sea Bum in Cabo. San Jose angler Alfredo Salgado from Redlands, California, claimed the third place winnings of $635 for his 80.5-pound fish caught on Lydia.

Kieran McSween from Middletown, California, took the junior angler division for the second day in a row with his 6.8-pound dorado caught on Cheers in Cabo. The day two top lady angler award went to Jennifer Nuffer from Evansville, Indiana, for her 32.9-pound tuna landed on Adrenaline in Cabo.

The Los Cabos Big Game Charter Boat Classic continues through Nov. 17. For more information, visit

Los Cabos Big Game Charter Boat Classic 2017 Results: Day Two (Nov. 15)

1st Place Tuna

Weight – 97.6 pounds

Angler – David Martin from Hudson, CO

Boat – Killer II, San Jose

Prize – $1,800 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


2nd Place Tuna

Weight – 83.3 pounds

Angler – Richard Jones from Portland, OR

Boat – Sea Bum, Cabo

Prize – $900 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


3rd Place Tuna

Weight – 80.5 pounds

Angler – Alfredo Salgado from Redlands, CA

Boat – Lydia, San Jose

Prize – $635 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


1st Place Dorado

Weight – 16.4 pounds

Angler – Tom Holste from Steamsville, MD

Boat – Sushi Time I, Cabo

Prize – $1,800 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


2nd Place Dorado

Weight – 13.7 pounds

Angler – Rita Muiter from Murrieta, CA

Boat – The Blue Marlin, Cabo

Prize – $900 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


3rd Place Dorado

Weight – 12.3 pounds

Angler – Mike Chau from Vacaville, CA

Boat – Dream Catcher, Cabo

Prize – $635 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


1st Place Wahoo

Weight – 35.1 pounds

Angler – Keith Ross from Lafayette, CA

Boat – Jacqueline, San Jose

Prize – $1,800 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


2nd Place Wahoo

Weight – 34.1 pounds

Angler-James Moore from Deleware, OH

Boat- Hard Effort, Cabo

Prize-$900 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


3rd Place Wahoo

Weight – 33.9 pounds

Angler – A.J. Summers from Winnetka, IL

Boat-Jacqueline, San Jose

Prize – $635 and King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


Top Junior Angler

Angler – Kieran McSween from Middletown, CA

Catch – 6.8-pound dorado

Boat – Cheers, Cabo

Prize – King Sailfish Mounts Trophy


Top Lady Angler

Angler – Jessica Nuffer from Evansville, IN

Catch – 32.9-pound tuna

Boat – Adrenaline, Cabo

Prize – King Sailfish Mounts Trophy

Los Cabos Tournament Set To Begin

Los Cabos Tournaments



The following press release is courtesy of Los Cabos Tournaments and the Bonnier Corporation:  

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (Nov. 15, 2017) — The only free-entry fishing tournament on the Baja California Peninsula is underway, as a fleet of 90 boats set out from three ports — Cabo San Lucas, East Cape and San Jose — for the Los Cabos Big Game Charter Boat Classic. Weather conditions were favorable on Tuesday for the first day of fishing with light winds and a moderate swell.

The radio start from tournament director Dan Jacobs called for lines-in promptly at 7 a.m., and the boats headed out to fish until 2:30 p.m. Several billfish releases were reported and anglers fishing out of San Jose swept the tuna category on this nearly picture-perfect day offshore. A.J. Summers from Winnetka, Illinois, landed a 66.2-pound tuna on Jacqueline to score first place in the division and a check for $1,800. Both second and third place went to angler David Martin from Hudson, Colorado, who weighed a 56.8-pound tuna and a 50.5-pound tuna caught on Killer II, worth a total of $1,535.

While San Jose had the hot tuna bite, it was the Cabo fleet that led the dorado category. Top honors on day one went to Doug Hart from Rosenburg, Texas, with his 16.8-pounder on Sol Mar VI for $1,800. Second place winnings of $900 went to Sandy, Utah, angler Robert Post for his 16.3-pound catch on Baja Raider. Taking third place was angler Tony Divino from Holladay, Utah, pulling in a 14.2-pound dorado on Baja Raider that earned him $635.

In the wahoo category, angler Lois Murray from Cranrook, British Columbia, won first place with a 25.1-pound catch on Paraquita in San Jose. Murray was the top prize winner for day one by also winning the lady angler division and splitting the third place wahoo prize for a grand total of $2,117.50. Paula Haycock from Draper, Utah, claimed second place and a share of the third place prize with her 7.9-pound wahoo caught while fishing on Baja Raider out of Cabo for a payout of $1,217.50.

Rounding out the first day awards was the winner of the junior angler category, Kieran McSween from Middletown, California. Kieran pulled in a 12.9-pound tuna while fishing on Cheers in Cabo.

The Los Cabos Big Game Charter Boat Classic continues through Nov. 17. For more information, visit

CDFW Seeking Input About Possibly Endangered Frog

CDFW photo

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to a proposal to list the Cascades Frog as an endangered or threatened species.

The Cascades Frog (Rana cascadae) inhabits a variety of habitats such as large lakes, ponds, wet meadows and streams at mid- to high-elevations range from the Klamath-Trinity region, along the Cascades Range axis in the vicinity of Mt. Shasta, southward to the headwater tributaries of the Feather River.

In March 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to formally list the Cascades Frog as endangered or threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation described a variety of threats to the survival of Cascades Frogs in California. These include direct and indirect impacts associated with airborne contaminants, climate change, disease, fire suppression, habitat loss and alteration, introduced fish, livestock grazing, recreational activities, small population sizes and Cannabis cultivation. CDFW recommended, and the Commission voted, to advance the species to candidacy on Oct. 11, 2017. The Commission published findings of this decision on Oct. 27, 2017, triggering a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s decision on whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding the Cascades Frog’s ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Laura Patterson
1812 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by email to If submitting comments by email, please include “Cascades Frog” in the subject heading.

All comments received by Dec. 22, 2017 will be evaluated prior to submittal of the CDFW report to the Commission. Receipt of the report will be placed on the agenda for the next available meeting of the Commission after delivery and the report will be made available to the public at that time. Following the receipt of the CDFW report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendation.

CBD’s listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for the Cascades Frog are available at

Veterans Helping Veterans Through The Outdoors

I was recently in New York City and stumbled onto this memorial in the Astoria area of Queens remembering veterans of World War I. (CHRIS COCOLES)


Saturday is officially Veterans Day, but today is when the holiday is being officially observed, so take some time out to honor those who have fought for their country.

To honor our veterans on this holiday, check out this story that’s running in our November issue on a disabled veteran who is doing his best to share his love of the outdoors with fellow wounded warriors:


By Chris Cocoles

Photos by Warfighter Outfitters 

The veteran that Brett Miller had taken on one of the fishing trips he leads for wounded warriors wasn’t exactly opening up about anything – not his experiences in combat or if he was even enjoying himself that day. 

Miller, himself a disabled veteran and founder of a Sisters, Oregon-based nonprofit, Warfighter Outfitters, understands that some of those recovering from a traumatic injury might not be willing to bare their soul right away, but this guy seemed content to not say anything. He’d been in trouble upon his return to civilian life and was in what’s known as Veteran’s Court when Miller signed over custody of the man and brought him along to fish in central Oregon, which he did without incident, but also without engaging in any conversation of any kind. 

“He just kept to himself and fished and was catching fish. A couple months went by and I asked him if he wanted to come to a fly fishing tournament with us.” Miller says. “We drove the whole way to New Mexico from Oregon – like 12 hours. Nothing. Didn’t say a word, not a peep. He was just a mannequin, a crash-test dummy.”

Miller’s team finished second and took home a trophy, yet the man remained as stoic as ever, barely speaking on the entire drive to the Pacific Northwest. So whatever therapeutic value Miller’s efforts rubbed off on the man, he didn’t seem comfortable sharing them. 

A year went by before Miller heard from him again.

“All of a sudden on social media, he hits me up and says thanks. ‘I bought a boat and now I’m taking guys fishing on it,’” Miller says. “You never know the impact of what one day or one trip will have.”

It’s that kind of feel-good story that has given hope to Miller, who was lucky to survive a 2005 attack in Iraq that left him permanently disabled and questioning what value his life would have. It turns out there was quite a lot. Like so many of his comrades, he just had to find it again. 

Brett Miller (center) accepted his Wounded Warrior Project Courage Award in June in New York. He’s come a long ways since he essentially disappeared for over two years driving around the country seeking purpose in his life. (WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT)

THREE OF MILLER’S PASSIONS LEFT him fulfilled for most of his life. He was an accomplished firefighter, having logged 17 years of service around his Oregon home since his teen years. His other love back home was the outdoors, and his hometown of Sisters, a tiny community about 30 minutes northwest of Bend, was surrounded by some of the Pacific Northwest’s most spectacular hunting and fishing grounds. 

But Miller was also dedicated to the military, having joined the Army National Guard in 1998 and getting the call to go to combat in Iraq in 2004. The life he once knew would soon change forever in one sudden burst. 

“There was a bomb that went off 6 feet from my (Humvee) door, and it made me blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and half-paralyzed on my left side,” Miller says. “I had a pretty bad traumatic brain injury with a brain bleed. That was the end of my military and firefighting career.”

His wounds were so severe he spent three years at a Palo Alto hospital and two more in outpatient treatment before he could be released. Miller spent countless hours in a bedridden haze. His physical injuries were obviously major, but it became more of a psychological chess match than anything else, not unlike so many others who’ve fought for the Stars and Stripes.

“I think the physical standpoint is easier to deal with, because you know what’s wrong and there’s a way to fix it,” he says. “But the mental (side), a traumatic brain injury and the psychological impact, is a lot harder. You don’t have a litmus test to tell if you’re getting better or not.”

As he had all the post traumatic stress symptoms, Miller was and is against including the word disorder in what’s commonly referred to as PTSD among wounded or disabled veterans. He calls his condition a “very normal reaction to a very abnormal situation.”

With so much idle time in a hospital bed, it’s easy to think the worst. Everything Miller’s body allowed him to do in the past was no longer feasible. The long road to recovery was full of curves, switchbacks and potholes. 

“I kind of took it for granted that I was going to be a drifter and nomad. It was a career of 17 years of fighting fire, that’s gone and I can’t do that anymore,” he says. “It’s the only thing I knew how to do and liked to do. And I can’t do military anymore; that’s done and over. I thought I was going to be a mindless soul floating around life.”

And like many disabled veterans, that’s exactly what Miller seemed to endure when he was finally released from the hospital. Miller says many in his shoes will go on “hiatus into the wilderness and try to find themselves.” 

He was no different. An avid motorcyclist, Miller bought a toy hauler for his truck, loaded his bikes in and drove Forrest Gump-style back and forth from the Pacific to the Atlantic three different times over two years. 

After spending so much time in hospitals, he was through taking orders from anyone else. His new journey was one of self-discovery, reflection and pondering the future.

“I lived in RV parks, I’d hang out in shady hole-in-the-wall bars and have greasy-spoon meals and I would just go explore. Just completely away from the public,” says Miller, who essentially became incognito, rarely if ever keeping contact with friends or family back home. 

He’d befriend a fellow RV park patron, but most were retired and spent their time playing bridge or canasta. Card games weren’t going to cut it for Miller. He knew that hunting, fishing and the outdoors remained a passion and that they offered him a chance to find some peace. 

 “I went on a couple (fishing and hunting) trips (with veterans) and saw the therapeutic and physical value of it and thought, ‘I want to do that.’”

WHEN VETERANS COME HOME from combat, their physical and emotional scars are best shared with those who can relate best: other veterans. For Miller, his time tramping the American highways was needed but not how he wanted to ultimately function. 

His love for escaping whatever demons might have been lurking with a hunting rifle and fly rod turned out to be the remedy he’d been looking for. 

“And like most of these guys, you’re basically starting life over and have to clean the slate. So I thought, if there’s one thing I wanted to do with my second life, I’d probably want to be a guide/outfitter,” Miller says. 

Of course, such an ambitious goal can be expensive, but with a few other veterans who also wanted to pursue the dream, Miller sold his Harley around 2013 or so, and eventually Warfighter Outfitters was born and began to thrive, thanks to the hard work of those who came aboard as well as generous donors. 

Disabled veterans from all over the country – Miller’s group has also hosted participants from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom – have gone on excursions free of charge. There are plenty of viable options around the organization’s Oregon base for predator hunts, jet boat fishing trips for steelhead on the Deschutes River, and Miller says a few lucky wounded warriors will win a tag draw for bighorn sheep on the Deschutes and a special trip to Idaho’s Hells Canyon to hunt elk.

“Last year alone, just on fishing trips we got over 2,000 veterans out,” says Miller, who’s done various   trips in California as part of the organization. “We have about $400,000 worth of equipment and we’re operating some of the most expensive trips for civilians that are completely free for veterans.”

In June, Miller traveled to New York to accept the top honor from the Wounded Warrior Project, the George C. Lang Award for Courage, for his contributions toward helping his fellow soldiers who were injured on the battlefield. 

These days, nothing gets Miller more excited than the camaraderie he feels when everyone gets together.

“It gets to the point where every day, I can almost clock it depending on the conversation; people will really start talking about the nitty gritty and the things that are bugging them and how to deal with family or relationships,” Miller says. “But on that drive to the event, by the time we hit the boat ramp, all these strangers you’d swear are now complete best friends and have been all their lives.”

It might not be the end-all “cure” for those troubled by their battlefield injuries, but it’s a positive step in the right direction. Miller can cite multiple cases of success from the downtrodden and depressed who have hitched a ride to a river or a duck blind.

Miller’s former commanding officer turned to the bottle after his return and nearly lost everything. But after bonding on a trip with Miller, the officer finally sought the help he was looking for and is now thriving in Montana as an outdoors writer and marathon runner. 

Whenever a wife, girlfriend, parent or friend calls or emails Miller thanking him for giving a disabled or wounded veteran a reason to be happy and optimistic, Miller feels like he’s helping others figure out a purpose in life he once couldn’t seem to find.
 “I definitely know it’s affirmation that we’re doing the right thing,” he says. 

“You really don’t know how bad you’ve got it until someone else in the boat or truck has got it 10 times worse. It gives you a little more clarity and perspective. Maybe things aren’t so bad. ‘This guy’s missing both legs and he’s wading in a middle of a river swinging a fly for steelhead.’ And then that person who sees that and experiences it, he then becomes more of a caregiver mode of, ‘I want to help.’”

“The biggest thing I’ve found is I’ve learned more about my own recovery helping others than I have being part of a recovery process.” CS

Editor’s note: For more info and to donate, go to and like at




Reward Offered For Wolf Killed In Southern Oregon


OR-25, a wolf that has been spotted in Northern California, was killed in southern Oregon. A $5,000 reward has been offered to help solve the crime. (ODFW)

A wolf that has been tracked in Northern California was killed in Oregon recently, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $5,000 reward to help determine who was responsible for the wolf’s death.

Here’s the Herald and News of Klamath Falls, Oregon with more:

The male gray wolf, identified as OR-25, was found dead near Fort Klamath on the Sun Pass State Forest. Originally part of the Imnaha Pack in northeast Oregon, the male wolf dispersed the pack in 2015, traveling to Klamath County by August of that year.

For the past two years OR-25 has spent much of its time in Klamath County, periodically relocating to Lake and Jackson counties in Oregon, as well as Modoc and Siskiyou counties in California.

The wolf was collared as a yearling, and was 4-1/2 years old at the time of its death. Recent wildlife camera images of OR-25 showed the possibility of the wolf pairing with a non-collared female.

OR-25 had been involved in two depredation incidents, the first in Klamath County in the fall of 2015, and one in Jackson County in February of this year. Though its collar batteries had been fading, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists had continued to track the wolf, which spent much of this year in the Wood River Valley and Williamson Valley north of Klamath Falls.

It is a violation of the Endangered Species Act to kill a gray wolf, which is listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Oregon. It is also a violation of Oregon state game laws. The Oregon State Police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are investigating the incident. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) December 2016 population count, there are a minimum of 112 wolves in the state, a 75 percent increase since December 2013.

Turkey Vultures Poisoned In Ventura County


Brown and black turkey vulture with pinkish-red face on the stub of a tree limb, seen from the back

Turkey vulture on the stub of a tree limb. USFWS photos

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed that several turkey vultures have been poisoned from the veterinary euthanasia drug pentobarbital in the Simi Valley area of Ventura County.

Seven turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) were found dead or impaired in Simi Valley in October. Two of these were successfully rehabilitated by the Ojai Raptor Center, but the other five died. Pentobarbital exposure was confirmed in the digestive system of one of the dead turkey vultures. The source of the exposure remains unknown.

Pentobarbital is a drug used by veterinarians to euthanize companion animals, livestock and horses. If the remains of animals euthanized with pentobarbital are not properly disposed of after death, scavenging wildlife – such as turkey vultures and eagles – can be poisoned. Veterinarians and animal owners are responsible for disposing of animal remains properly by legal methods such as cremation or deep burial.


Turkey vultures are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and California Fish and Game Code. Improperly disposed-of euthanized remains are a danger to all scavenging wildlife.

Members of the veterinary and livestock communities are asked to share this information with colleagues in an effort to prevent further incidents.


CDFW also asks the public to pay attention to and report grounded turkey vultures and other raptors and scavengers.

Pentobarbital-poisoned birds appear to be dead. They have no reflex response and breathing can barely be detected. The birds appear intact, without wounds or obvious trauma. Anyone finding a comatose vulture should report the finding to CDFW at 916-358-2954.

Coming Together In The Name Of Salmon

About 8 million of the 12 million Chinook salmon that were released in 2014 strayed off course when they returned to freshwater to spawn. Anticipating a similar event this year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Nimbus Hatchery, located near Sacramento on the American River, opened its fish ladder early on Oct. 9 to accommodate the arrival of more straying fish. Above, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Marc Provencher pours salmon eggs into a waiting bucket. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

The following is courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region:

California may have experienced record rainfalls this past winter, but negative impacts due to the unprecedented five-year statewide drought continue for Chinook salmon produced at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery.

In a unique partnership that hasn’t been utilized in 40 years, the state of California has stepped in to help out.

The Coleman hatchery, located in Anderson, California is the only federally operated fish hatchery in the state with an annual production of 12 million fall-run salmon smolts that are typically released into nearby Battle Creek each spring. This allows them to complete the imprinting cycle during their outmigration to the ocean.

Salmon smolts were deposited into net pens in 2015 at Rio Vista and taken out to the ocean for release. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

In 2014 and 2015 however, due to extreme drought conditions which prevented release into Battle Creek, most of those 24 million fish were driven almost 200 miles by truck (about 280 river miles) and released into locations near the San Francisco Bay, including Rio Vista, Mare Island and San Pablo Bay.

As a result, a good portion of the Chinook salmon smolts that were released in 2014 – about 8 million of the 12 million were trucked that year — strayed off course when they returned to freshwater to spawn. In 2015, poor conditions persisted and all 12 million of those smolts ended up being trucked. These fish are returning to spawn primarily during the current year.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Nimbus Hatchery, located near Sacramento on the American River, opened its fish ladder early on Oct. 9 to accommodate the arrival of those straying fish. Beginning Oct. 10, twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, hatchery workers from Coleman arrived in Sacramento to help CDFW spawn fish that originated in Battle Creek.

A Chinook salmon jumps in a holding tank as wayward salmon wait to be spawned at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

The eggs collected at Nimbus will be returned to Coleman to prepare for the planned spring release, to help augment what could be the lowest Chinook salmon return ever, said Brett Galyean, project leader for the Coleman hatchery complex.

In typical years, Coleman will see a return of around 30,000 fish and since 1996, as many as almost 143,000.

Gary Novak (left), CDFW, Marc Provencher (center), FWS, and Greg Ferguson, CDFW, extract milt from a male Chinook salmon, which eventually will be mixed with the female’s eggs. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

This year, however because of the drought-caused trucking, only about 3,000 are expected to return to Battle Creek.

“It’s pretty spectacular the way the state has stepped up to help us out,” said Galyean, adding that the last time Nimbus and Coleman hatcheries worked together in a similar fashion was in the late 1970s. “I’ve never seen anyone open their fish ladder three weeks early before and we really appreciate it. It’s definitely not normal operating procedure for them.”

Before release, Coleman marks 25 percent of its salmon by clipping off the adipose fin—the small, fleshy fin on the fish’s back between the dorsal and caudal fins. These clipped salmon also have coded wire tags the size of pencil lead, inserted into their nose. Under a microscope, biologists can read the code etched on the tag to determine where and when the fish was hatched, and where it was released.

In 2014 and 2015 , due to extreme drought conditions which prevented release into Battle Creek, roughly 24 million fish were driven almost 200 miles by truck (about 280 river miles) and released into locations near the San Francisco Bay, including Rio Vista, Mare Island and San Pablo Bay.  Above, fall-run Chinook salmon smolts being released into a waiting net pen at Mare Island during the 2014 trucking operation. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

Fall-run Chinook from Battle Creek live three to four years and typically spawn in October and early November, compared to fish from the American River that spawn in November and early December.

Service biologist Marc Provencher prepares for a day of salmon collection and spawning at Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

When the salmon reach the Nimbus Hatchery, staff then separate the fish that have had their adipose fin removed, indicating that they carry the tiny coded tag. Fish identified as being of Coleman origin will be spawned with one another, and their fertilized eggs returned to Coleman. Fish that have not had their adipose fin removed will be spawned and their eggs will be reserved, ready to be used to meet Coleman’s production goals.

Those fish that are not yet ready to spawn will have a colored tag attached to their dorsal fin and will be returned to the American River, where they will be available to anglers until they either spawn naturally or climb the ladder again to spawn at the Nimbus hatchery.

Marc Provencher, a fish biologist at Coleman for eight years, has been working out of Nimbus most Thursdays during the collection process, collecting eggs from the females and milt from the males that will be mixed with the eggs to fertilize them.

Greg Ferguson, aCDFW employee at Nimbus Fish Hatchery, prepares a fall-run Chinook salmon for spawning. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

“Today was probably the best day we’ve had,” said Provencher, while on his way back to Coleman on Oct. 26, noting they had collected 140 fish that day.

“We’ve collected close to a million eggs since we started this. Every one of them helps,” he said.

“We’ll be working at Nimbus until the marked fish stop showing up; probably in early November,” Galyean said.

Coleman’s production goal is to collect roughly 14 million eggs at the hatchery, Galyean said.

Each spawning fish produces about 5,300 eggs on average, and about 190 spawning pairs have been collected so far from Nimbus.

The operation at Nimbus ended Nov. 1, and both hatcheries will continue with their fall spawning public viewing schedules with Nimbus returning to its normal Monday-Thursday schedule through mid-December.

Coleman is open to public viewing Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 a.m. to noon, through mid-November.

Green Sturgeon Spotted In Stanislaus River

As the Stockton Record reports,  a green sturgeon was spotted in the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry.

Biologists have confirmed the presence of a green sturgeon — a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act — in the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry.

That’s a long way from where you would expect to find one. Green sturgeon are known to migrate and spawn in the Sacramento and Feather rivers, but this is the first time one of the bony, pointy-nosed bottom-dwellers has been confirmed in the more polluted and heavily diverted San Joaquin River region upstream of Stockton.

Fishermen have long reported catching sturgeon in the San Joaquin area, but it was unclear if they were confusing the green sturgeon with their more common cousin, the white sturgeon.

“We’ve never seen a green sturgeon (in that area), and it’s not like we don’t try. This is really exciting,” said Laura Heironimus, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Lodi. …

“There has been anecdotal evidence for years,” said Joe Merz, president of the Cramer firm. “Of course these rivers had sturgeon in them back in the day.”

But you just didn’t find them in the San Joaquin system. Or so everyone said, despite a place called “Sturgeon’s Bend” and old fishermen’s stories like the one about how a team of horses supposedly once hauled a monster sturgeon from the stream.