All posts by Chris Cocoles

Carmel River Steelhead Coming Back

A 1921 shot of San Clemente Dam in Monterey County. the removal of the dam has helped fish in the Carmel River make a resurgence. (JA WILCOX/WIKIMEDIA)

Nice piece in Water Deeply about the comeback of Monterery County’s Carmel RiverTwo years after the demolition of San Clemente Dam, the river’s essentially extinct steelhead population has experienced something of a renaissance.

Here’s reporter Enrique Gili with more:

Prior to demolition, the prognosis for the steelhead residing in the Carmel River was dire.

Historic steelhead runs on the Carmel River used to be around 20,000 but that number had dropped to fewer than 800 by 2015. NOAA scientist Williams, who has conducted steelhead surveys along sections of the river prior to and after the dam’s demolition, compared their decline to a “death by a thousand cuts.” He attributes their losses to the rise of human habitation in California and to the subsequent demand for water to cultivate crops and for use by cities for the sake of economic development. “We’ve pushed them to the razor’s edge by modifying their habitat,” he said.

Monterey County was no exception. The demand for water led to the construction of the San Clemente Dam in 1921. In turn, the dam blocked the Carmel River’s flow, undermining its ability to support steelhead. And for decades, the steelhead had to climb a fish ladder to swim above the dam, a challenging task made even more difficult during times of flood and drought.

After two years, the river is messy and messy is good. Prior to demolition, the structure had not only blocked steelheads’ ability to swim upstream, but also deprived the river of qualities necessary for their survival. Among them, the river lacked the ability to transfer debris downstream. This is a necessary factor in creating the variety of freshwater habitats young fish require to mature, prior to entering the Pacific Ocean.

Post-dam removal, Williams has seen a mix of fish at various stages of development, both above and below the site of the dam, which is a positive sign that steelhead populations are on the rebound. After surveying numerous sites along the river multiple times, “there’s no cause for concern, and reason for optimism,” he said. He’s upbeat, but he will have to withhold his judgment until NOAA issues its final report, due next spring. With the demolition of the dam, the fish counter used to calculate their numbers was also removed. In turn, the steelhead population is harder to calculate, he explained.

 

 

 

More California Lands Added To Pass Program

Restored pond in Ash Creek Wildlife Area, home to Pronghorn antelope, beaver, and bobcat. Bird species include numerous waterfowl species, sandhill cranes, falcons, sage grouse, short-eared owls, and bald eagles. (CDFW)

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is expanding its Lands Pass Program to 41 wildlife areas and ecological reserves this fall and winter and will soon require a CDFW lands pass of all visitors 16 or older. Those carrying a current hunting or fishing license are exempt from this new requirement.

CDFW’s Lands Pass Program began in 1988 as a way to broaden the funding base beyond hunters and anglers to pay for conservation and habitat improvement on some of the state’s most popular and frequently visited wildlife areas and ecological reserves. In 2013, the California Legislature directed CDFW to expand the program to more properties as a way for all visitors to contribute to the management of the places they enjoy and appreciate.

A daily lands pass costs $4.32 and an annual lands pass costs $24.33. Lands passes can be purchased online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/internetsales, by phone at (800) 565-1458 or in-person wherever hunting and fishing license are sold (please see www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing for a list of locations). The passes are good at any CDFW-managed wildlife area or ecological reserve designated as a lands pass area. With the exception of the Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve, lands passes are not sold on site and should be purchased in advance. Though lands passes can be purchased from a smartphone and used immediately, many of CDFW’s wildlife areas and ecological reserves are in remote locations with limited or no cell service or Wi-Fi availability. Signs will be posted notifying visitors of the need for a lands pass.

A lands pass already is required to visit six CDFW properties:

  • Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve in Monterey County
  • Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County
  • Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Solano County
  • Imperial Wildlife Area in Imperial County
  • Los Banos Wildlife Area in Merced County
  • San Jacinto Wildlife Area in Riverside County.

Beginning in November, a lands pass will be required to visit the following 11 properties:

  • Ash Creek, Bass Hill, Honey Lake and Willow Creek wildlife areas in Lassen County
  • Battle Creek Wildlife Area in Tehama County
  • Butte Valley, Horseshoe Ranch and Shasta Valley wildlife areas in Siskiyou County
  • Mouth of Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area in Shasta County
  • Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area (Green Island Unit only) in Napa County
  • Woodbridge Ecological Reserve in San Joaquin County (beginning Nov. 15)

Starting January 2018, a lands pass will be required at the following 23 properties:

  • Batiquitos Lagoon, Boden Canyon, Buena Vista Lagoon and San Elijo Lagoon ecological reserves and Hollenbeck Canyon and San Felipe Valley wildlife areas in San Diego County
  • Upper Newport Bay (Big Canyon Unit only) Ecological Reserve in Orange County
  • Canebrake Ecological Reserve in Kern County
  • Crescent City Marsh, Elk Creek Wetlands and Lake Earl wildlife areas in Del Norte County
  • Eel River, Elk River Wetlands, Fay Slough and Mad River Slough wildlife areas in Humboldt County
  • Hope Valley Wildlife Area in Alpine County
  • Mendota Wildlife Area in Fresno County
  • North Grasslands and Volta wildlife areas in Merced County
  • North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County and the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area in Butte and Glenn counties
  • Tehama Wildlife Area in Tehama County
  • Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in Yolo County

Starting February 2018, a lands pass will be required at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County.

For more information on CDFW’s Lands Pass program, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/lands-pass.

Officials Say A Wolf Killed Farm Cow In Lassen County

CDFW Photo

With California now without a doubt home to wolves,  the pack is predictably finding dining options, much to the chargin of Golden State ranchers.

From sfgate.com:

For the first time in over a century, California officials confirmed the death of a state rancher’s livestock by wolf.

A heifer on a Lassen County ranch was attacked and killed by the Lassen Pack on Oct. 13, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed in a report.

Following an investigation of the 600-pound yearling carcass, Fish and Wildlife said that the “location and nature of the bite marks and the significant associated tissue hemorrhaging” were consistent with a wolf attack. The agency also identified wolf tracks and the evidence of a struggle near the decimated carcass, which was missing one leg, seven ribs and much of its neck. 

In September Fish and Wildlife investigated four other possible wolf depredations – or kills – on the same Lassen County ranch. One kill was ruled a “possible” wolf depredation, while the other cows’ causes of death were unknown.

 The ranch in question belongs to veteran rancher Wallace Roney, Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Jordan Traverso confirmed. 

Of Fish And Farmers

Paul Hames / California Department of Water Resources

The San Francisco Chronicle published an interesting story this week about the co-existing of those who support protecting fish and keeping farmers happy. In California, that’s been a point of contention ever since the historic drought created a lot of tension and finger pointing.

Here’s the Chronicle with more about ways the two sides can find some common ground:

Farmers and California cities both benefit when fish populations rebound because regulations are reduced, allowing water to flow more securely and consistently.

For example, River Garden Farms created 25 fish habitat shelters made of almond trunks and walnut tree root wads. These were bolted to 12,000-pound limestone boulders and dropped into the Sacramento River near Redding. The roots and branches are designed to help juvenile winter-run chinook to survive by serving as a shield against swift river flows and predators. These habitat improvements paid for and implemented by a farm hundreds of miles to the south will allow the salmon more time to mature and grow before making the 300-mile journey to the Pacific Ocean.

River Garden Farms’ project couldn’t have come at a more important time. According to a recent study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout, the winter-run chinook salmon is teetering on the edge of extinction. In the mid-1970s, winter-run chinook salmon totaled 25,000. The latest population count: 1,504.

But there is hope a recovery is just beyond the river bank. A survey in August conducted by wildlife biologist Dave Vogel reveals a large school of juvenile salmon have taken to the tree roots. In just three months since the tree roots were placed in the river, salmon are finding a refuge and the populations appear to be improving.

Through collaborative projects such as this one, we have a shot at reversing these dire downward population trends. But such an outcome is not just for farm communities, or the commercial fishing industry, which operates heavily around the San Francisco Bay coastline, relies heavily on healthy fish populations for survival and expects to have its worst year ever. Projects like the salmon shelters in other key rivers throughout California can help ease the financial burden these fishing families are facing.

 

 

 

 

 

Commercial Spiny Lobster Fishery Shut Down

CDFW photo.

 

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

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has enacted a commercial spiny lobster fishery closure effective immediately.

State health agencies determined that spiny lobster near Anacapa Island, Ventura County and the east end of Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara County had unhealthy levels of domoic acid and recommended closure of the commercial fishery. The recreational fishery for spiny lobster remains open statewide with a warning from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to recreational anglers to avoid consuming the viscera (tomalley) of spiny lobster.

The commercial closure includes all state waters around Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands east of 119° 40.000’ W. longitude, and west of 119° 20.000’ W. longitude. State waters extend three nautical miles beyond outermost islands, reefs and rocks.

This closure shall remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the State Public Health Officer at CDPH, determines that domoic acid no longer poses a significant risk to public health and recommends the fishery be open. CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in spiny lobster to determine when the fishery can safely be opened.

Pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 5523, the Director of CDFW will notify the Fish and Game Commission of the closure and request that the Commission schedule a public discussion of the closure at its next scheduled meeting.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine alga, whose levels can be increased under certain ocean conditions. State and federal laws prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level, which is 20 parts per million in the viscera of spiny lobster.

For More Information:
Advisory from CDPH (10/24/2017)

Memo from OEHHA (10/24/17)

CDFW Declaration of Fisheries Closure (10/24/2017)

www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories

Trump Doesn’t Support Gov. Brown’s Sac River Tunnel Project

Paul Hames / California Department of Water Resources

President Donald Trump announced he opposes Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin water tunnel project on the Sacramento River that was of great concern for the impact on salmon runs from the Pacific into the Sac River system.

Here’s the Los Angeles Times (via the AP) with more:

“The Trump administration did not fund the project and chose to not move forward with it,” Russell Newell, deputy communications director for the U.S. Interior Department, said in an email.

Asked if that meant the Trump administration did not support California’s tunnels project, Newell said yes.

Brown wants California water districts to pay $16 billion to build two, 35-mile-long tunnels to divert part of the state’s largest river, the Sacramento, to supply water to the San Francisco Bay Area and central and Southern California. The Obama administration backed the project, but the tunnels plan ran into its biggest obstacles yet last month, when two key water districts opted not to pay for it.

Conservationists have been skeptical of the plan due to the potential obstacles an already struggling king salmon run would have to get through during the spawning journey.
The Golden Gate Salmon Association‘s executive director John McManus had this to say about today’s salvo from Trump:
 “With today’s announcement, there’s an opportunity for Californians to now come together to plan a way forward that protects our valuable salmon runs and more reliably delivers water to the tens of millions in southern California and others.  For this to work, the State Water Resources Control Board first has to complete its work determining just how much water can be exported without destroying the environment.”

Frenzied Fishing On The Feather

 

 

The following appears in the October issue of California Sportsman:

 

By Chris Cocoles

OROVILLE—To be honest, I wasn’t quite prepared for this. 

Not that it disappointed or discouraged me; in fact, the atmosphere on the Feather River below the Thermalito Afterbay, which, according to the California Department of Water Resources, “diverts water in Thermalito Power Canal for power generation at Thermalito Pumping Generating Plant and creates a tailwater pool for Hyatt Powerplant,” was memorable. 

It also was the place to be for king salmon anglers. Lots and lots of them. 

WHEN WE GATHERED IN nearby Gridley, fishing guide Manuel Saldana Jr. of MSJ Guide Service (530-301-7455;
msjguideservice.com) gave our group a game plan and pep talk. We’d drag fresh roe with heavy weights, and because many of the kings were rapidly swimming through most of the Feather’s productive holes, most of the anglers were congregating in the faster-moving waters of the afterbay, just a few miles downstream from the Oroville Dam. 

But because this late September Saturday was also opening day of deer season in nearby zones, perhaps the fishing pressure wouldn’t be as heavy as it could be. 

No such luck. When we reached the boat ramp before 6 a.m., there was already a line of trucks and boat trailers waiting to launch. With a nice, warm day forecast, the chill we were feeling would get a boost from some sunshine as the dark sky slowly lightened up. 

It wasn’t far from the launch to the afterbay, where quite a scene unfolded. At one point, we counted 15 boats navigating in and out of the whitewater. 

“The current reminds me of a washing machine because it has a circular rotation in certain areas,” Saldana said. 

And on either side of the river stood the “bankers” who were wading and casting just a few feet from each other. Even before we baited the Cousins Tackle rods, I expected chaos.

Only the band Stealers Wheel (“Stuck in the Middle with You”) could describe the scene best: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right …” 

  

I’LL SAY THIS ABOUT fishing in the rushing waters below the afterbay: there were salmon there. Sara Martin, who fished with us along with her husband Ross, got in on the action right away and got into two kings – though one was tail-hooked and the other hooked in the middle – and found out how difficult it is to reel in a Chinook in a strong current. But it’s also where you’ll have a decent shot at a fish.  

“The water released (from the afterbay) has been and is still about 7,000 cubic feet per second, and it’s been that way for most of our season,” Saldana said. “With that much water being released the water temperature has been 58 degrees, which is good for salmon; the colder, the better.”

This a prime spot for kings to congregate (fishing will close in this section of the Feather around the middle of October). When water is flowing out it creates a strong current in a small area, and the Chinook tend to swim into the current. That gives anglers a good opportunity to hook into one within a small area of water. 

Thus, this was fast-paced, don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it action. Boats move in a circular motion – clockwise – and upon reaching the fastest-flowing water Saldana would give us the command: “Let ’em down.” We’d let out line until hitting bottom, then reel up a couple cranks. Our window per drift was about 45 seconds, after which Saldana would shout “Reel up!” to allow the next boatload of anglers a chance to get their lines in the water. 

For most of the morning, I felt a couple strikes but nothing more, and my spot in the bow of the boat was the wettest place to be, soaking my socks all the way through as the Feather splashed my feet relentlessly. 

In between the flotilla of boats taking their turns to drop lines, I was fascinated watching all the anglers wading the river. The term combat fishing was apropos. I wondered how that many people could coexist and not drive each other crazy with crossed lines and casts in such tight spaces. 

But somehow, when salmon were hooked, everyone seemed to be on the same page (it’s still a dangerous place to be; others in the boat who fish these waters far more than I do have witnessed heated “disagreements” and shared a harrowing story of an unfortunate chap who suffered a cracked skull from a heavy sinker while standing behind a caster). 

Eventually, Saldana suggested we head downstream to try our luck in calmer and a little less crowded waters. 

“Let’s get away from the craziness,” he said. 

 

WE FOUND OUR HAPPY PLACE, far away from the frenzy we’d just experienced. A popular spot on the Feather called “Charlie” (Saldana said it’s named after an old-timer who fished there often) was just what we needed. Though a couple other boats had the same idea we did, it was fun to just drop down to the bottom and lazily fish with roe again, this time using more of a hanging technique. 

“I really like Charlie’s because it’s a nice deep hole – approximately 28 to 30 feet – with a good amount of current,” Saldana said. “The salmon like to stay in there for awhile before making a run up to the next deepest hole they can find to rest again.”   

We had little time to breathe, let alone talk, earlier in the day. Now we were able to swap stories about our favorite comedians, Saldana was able to call and comfort his teen daughter after their home’s alarm system accidentally was triggered, and we had some fun conversations with a guy who was piloting perhaps the coolest craft on the river, a unique floating device with a small outboard motor but mostly powered by his flippers for easy navigating. 

 

He also played a role in our fishing highlight of the day. Ross noticed one of the flippers had slipped off our new friend’s feet and floated towards our boat. Deckhand Justin Leonard reached out with the net to retrieve it when we noticed one of our rods bending violently. Ross grabbed it and soon reeled home a chrome-bright Chinook, around 12 to 15 pounds. 

 

“Your missing flipper was our good luck charm,” Leonard joked to the solo boater. 

We might not have been reeling in a bunch of kings, but it was a beautiful day, the conditions were great and the company friendly. But it was time to speed up the pace again. Saldana suggested we give the Thermalito Afterbay area another go.

I was eager. “Let’s take the descent back into the madness.” 

 

FINALLY, IT WAS MY turn after returning to this hot mess. I had been bitten a few times in the morning and once fishing in Charlie’s hole, but nothing of note. When I finally set the hook on a fish and the fight began, I understood what Sara had encountered earlier. 

My salmon was giving me the business, taking advantage of the currents to make me work. Leonard convinced me the fish had wedged itself down below where a major rockpile exists. The king eventually wriggled free, and essentially my day was over.

But we had one more surprise waiting for us among the mass of humanity fishing this same stretch of water. Ross attempted to reel in another king, and it was his turn to get into the ring and spar with it and the Feather’s swirling waters. 

And we’d have our first encounter with fellow anglers. Saldana maneuvered the boat carefully to avoid the fleet. But the salmon headed toward the guys wading in the shallows. Earlier, we talked about instances when kings hooked offshore got tangled with the lines of the shore fishermen. Leonard did what he could to defuse any boiling tempers when he asked if he could cut the snagged line towards the bank. There was some protesting but with so much fishing pressure, it’s all about compromise. And though we lost another fish, Leonard salvaged the other man’s sinker and leader for a happier ending. 

At that point, Saldana made the executive decision to retreat back to the boat launch and call it a day. “Enough of the craziness,” he said with a laugh.

It was a little overwhelming, but I want to go back and try again. Sometimes, a little chaos can be fun. CS

 

Bass Tactic Inspired By America’s Heartland

Author Mark Fong (below) swears by a set-up inspired by Missouri bass angler Ned Kehde. The lightweight lead head jig rig should be a staple in all tackle boxes. (MARK FONG)

The following appears in the October issue of California Sportsman: 

By Mark Fong 

One of the hottest set-ups in the bass fishing world today is the Midwest finesse rig. 

Known also as the “Ned rig” for its creator, Missourian Ned Kehde, the set-up is, in its simplest form, a small, lightweight, mushroom-shaped leadhead jig weighing anywhere from 1/16 to ¼ ounce and matched with a diminutive soft plastic offering. 

While there are many different plastic bait styles that work well, perhaps the most popular is a cigar-shaped stickbait. Anglers typically choose between a small 3-incher or a standard-sized stickbait that has been trimmed down to a length between 2½ and 4 inches.

 

A TACKLE BOX STAPLE 

Jighead worms have been around for a long time and have caught untold numbers of bass, but I do have to say there is something special about the Midwest finesse rig that just plain catches fish. It has a subtle yet appealing profile that excels when conditions make for difficult fishing. Based on its skyrocketing popularity, it is clear that I am not the only one to think this way. In fact, the rig has become a staple for tournament anglers everywhere.

The rig is very easy to fish: simply swim it, drag it, shake it or deadstick it. The choice is yours. Best of all, the rig generates lots of bites, making it the ideal choice for beginning anglers or kids.

In response to its success and popularity, many tackle companies now offer specific jigheads and plastics geared for the Midwest finesse rig. I have had good success with a homemade leadhead jig matched with a shortened Yamamoto Senko. 

There are many productive colors, but I like shades of green or brown. I will stick with green pumpkin, baby bass or watermelon when in doubt.

There is more to this technique than just the bait; a medium-action spinning combo will help to maximize your success and enjoyment. I use a Cousins Tackle Raze RSK 752S 7-foot, 6-inch spinning rod; and pair it with a 2500-series spinning reel filled with 15-pound FINS 40G Braid connected to a leader of 6-pound Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon Line. Braid casts well, is super sensitive and strong, and the fluorocarbon leader is abrasion-resistant and super stealthy.

If you love to catch bass and have not yet fished the Midwest finesse rig, you owe it to yourself to tie one on. 

A Memorable Day On The Water For Vets

The following press release is courtesy of NOAA:

Larry Brown described himself as an “old retired guy,” but sounded more like a military recruiter as he addressed nearly 30 veterans on the stern of the sportfishing vessel Betty O, moored at Dock 52 in Marina Del Rey, California, in August.

“So what I’m going to try and do is enlist you to be a soldier again, protecting our environment,” Brown told the captivated audience. “You’ve already been soldiers, and when you think about the environment, it needs protecting just like our country does.”

Volunteer Larry Brown, right, celebrates a successful catch with veterans aboard the Betty O. Photo: Jim Milbury, NOAA

Larry sponsors a veterans fishing program also supported by the Los Angeles Rod and Reel ClubMarina Del Rey Anglers, and the California Coastal Conservancy. The program gives veterans struggling with personal challenges a day of recreation on the ocean and an opportunity to learn about marine stewardship. To enhance the program, NOAA Fisheries is designing a sea stewardship handbook that describes pressing issues facing our ocean—such as marine debris, polluted runoff, and ocean acidification—and explains how individuals can make a difference.

Fishing success on the Betty O. Photo: Jim Millbury, NOAA

The California State Coastal Conservancy partially funds the program to help fulfill its mission of increasing public access to coastal resources and educating the public about them.

“The Coastal Conservancy provides funding for the veterans’ program through the Explore the Coast Program,” said Evyan Sloane, a project manager for the Coastal Conservancy. “The program really focuses on public access by providing grants to non-profits, schools, and local government to get their communities out to the coast and educate the community about their coastal resources.”

Larry’s pitch on the environment met with endorsements of “Hooah!” when ethical angling and protecting marine mammals from marine pollution came up. Whether on the water for the first time or seasoned boaters, the veterans were excited and ready to learn more.

Sponsors offer the trips in partnership with the Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital and the CalVet Veterans Home program. According to Brown, doctors and recreational therapists say the fishing program is one of most popular recreational opportunities for veterans in Southern California.

Zach Schakner, NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Recreational Fisheries Coordinator, also noted that the program meets an objective in NOAA Fisheries’ Recreational Fishing Implementation Plan. The plan calls for promoting fishing opportunities for children, veterans, disabled anglers, and others who otherwise may never experience the fun of getting on the water and catching a fish.

“This program and those like it not only provide participants direct and enriching opportunities with nature, but they also greatly increase awareness of important marine stewardship and ethical fishing practices,” Schakner said.

A perfect catch on the Betty O. Photo: Jim Millbury, NOAA

Several veterans, including Eugene Rivera, have enjoyed repeat fishing excursions. Rivera has his nickname, “Buddha,” tattooed on his arm just below “U.S. Army.”

“I was in the U.S. Army from 1979 until 1987,” Rivera said aboard the Betty O. “I look forward to going out because it is the most exciting day of my life.”

Phil Bell, also known as “Fisherman Phil,” coordinates the trips for Marina Del Rey Anglers. He darts around the boat – fixing tangled lines and snags, attaching bait, and talking to the veterans.

“The veterans love it and you can see they’re having a great time,” Bell said. “One guy just got back from Iraq about a year ago, came off the boat, came up to me and said, ‘Phil, this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me since I’ve gotten home from Iraq.’ That was really great to hear.”

After a full day of fishing, the Betty O returned to its slip in Marina del Rey, its passengers tired but full of stories and appreciation for the ocean.

“What we find is just being with them, spending the day with them, and treating them to a day on the water is the best way to say thanks,” said Brown. “It doesn’t have to come out of our mouth, they just know it, feel it, and appreciate it.”

For more information on recreational fishing in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, visit

http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/recreational/recreational_fishing_wcr.html

Bay Area Hatchery Fish OK So Far Amid Devastating Fires

CDFW photo.

As a Bay Area native, I keep thinking about how many fellow NorCal residents have been devastated by the fires raging through Sonoma and Napa Counties. And while the tragedy of multiple fatalties and hundreds of destroyed homes should be the primary focus right now, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found some good news – at least for now – regarding its hatchery fish in the area.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s longtime outdoors writer Tom Stienstra has more:

The vast majority of 710,000 salmon and trout — including the state fish, the golden trout — and 100,000 eggs at two state hatcheries survived this week’s wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Silverado Fisheries Base, located in Napa along the Silverado Trail, lost power for 24 to 48 hours, leaving some 200,000 fish without fresh water, aeration or food after staff was evacuated Monday. But an official said Thursday that only “minimal losses” were incurred.

“One fishery worker went back in late Wednesday, escorted by game wardens,” said Peter Tira, a department spokesman. “Much to our surprise, the fish were doing well, the eggs doing well.” 

 Meanwhile, Warm Springs Hatchery, downstream of Lake Sonoma near Geyserville, remained fully functional as of Thursday, even as nearby areas were evacuated. Tira said there are 160,000 endangered coho salmon and 350,000 steelhead at the facility being grown for release into the Russian River.
 
“It’s a very important hatchery,” Tira said. “The folks are there right now, and it’s up and running.”

 

At Silverado, power was restored by Thursday, and Tira said workers were eager to return to their posts and take care of the fish they are raising, though they are under evacuation standby alerts.

The Silverado hatchery is home to about 200,000 golden trout. The goldens are very small at this point in the season, about 2 inches, Tira said, a critical stage of their lives as they are grown out over the winter to be stocked in high-elevation lakes.