With cooler temperatures and increased flows giving young salmon their best chance of surviving and reaching the Pacific Ocean, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has started releasing juvenile fall chinook salmon in the Klamath River. Over 2 million baby chinook that hatched in early 2021 at CDFW’s Iron Gate Hatchery in Siskiyou County were held over the summer at three different CDFW facilities, including 1 million fish transported by truck to the Trinity River Hatchery via Redding in triple-digit heat. . All three groups of fish performed particularly well over the summer and thrived despite difficult circumstances.
Drought conditions affecting the Klamath River – including an epidemic – would have killed around 90 percent of the young fish according to scientific projections, had these fish been released last spring, as is common practice.
So far, CDFW has released 1.1 million juvenile chinook salmon held over the summer at the Iron Gate Hatchery and a nearby satellite facility in Fall Creek into the Klamath River. These releases provide sufficient space and water quality for the one million fish moved to the Trinity River hatchery to return to Iron Gate. This group has spent several weeks at Iron Gate to re-acclimatize to the Klamath River and will be releasing later this month.
âDozens of CDFW staff worked diligently for several months at the three sites in a joint effort to save these fish that would otherwise perish,â said Dr Mark Clifford, senior environmental scientist at the hatchery for the northern region of CDFW. “Over 2 million healthy chinook salmon are on their way to the Pacific Ocean, which will ultimately benefit commercial, tribal and recreational fisheries and retain the intrinsic value of these fish and their genetics for the Klamath River population. . “
Four dams on the Klamath River are expected to be removed in the coming years, the largest dam removal company in U.S. history. The removal is expected to restore fish access to historic salmon habitat in several rivers and tributaries connected to the headwaters of the Klamath River upstream of the dams. The juveniles released this year could be the first salmon to return to a new Klamath River after their life in the ocean and find miles of additional spawning habitat and contribute to future generations of wild fish.
CDFW thanks its partners for their time and expertise in this difficult and unprecedented situation. These partners include the Karuk Tribe, the Yurok Tribe, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Klamath Tribes, the US Bureau of Reclamation and the NOAA Fisheries.