Coleman Hatchery Salmon Festival 2018
On Saturday, October 20, GGSA operated an outreach table at the Coleman Hatcheries annual Salmon festival to spread the word. Thousands of people from all over the state come to this annual event. The gate connecting salmon in Battle Creek to the hatchery was lifted and salmon were taken in and spawned.
The presence of so many large 20 pound and bigger salmon in Battle Creek is an inspiring reminder of what many creeks and streams in the Central Valley could and should look like in the autumn when fish return to spawn. Our vision is to create the natural conditions where this becomes a common sight once again.
For hatchery fish, the good news is that water temperatures can be perfectly adjusted in the hatchery when eggs are incubating. Out in the wild, that’s not always the case. It’s common for spawning beds in the upper Sacramento River to heat up to temperatures above 56 degrees, the temperature above which salmon eggs start to die. This can be addressed by keeping more cold water that comes from the bottom of Lake Shasta later in the year so it’s there when fall run salmon need it..
Another issue for hatchery salmon is getting them down the Sacramento River in one piece in the spring when their instincts tell them to go. In wet years with lots of rain and snow, the heavy runoff safely carries the baby salmon to the ocean like a conveyor belt. In drier years, that conveyor belts breaks and many of the baby salmon die before reaching the ocean.
Baby hatchery salmon can be transported part or all of the way in big tanker trucks. GGSA has been at the forefront of experimenting with the transportation of baby salmon in drier years to improve their survival. GGSA has also been hard at work for several years to win a reduction in water diversions from the rivers so enough of the natural river remains to get the job done.
What We’ve Accomplished
For a thumbnail sketch, Click Here
GGSA is working with the Coleman hatchery on a pilot project to transport some juvenile salmon to a downstream release site in the spring of 2019 to see if we can improve survival. We also want these babies to imprint on where they are released so they’ll come at least that far back. We hope they figure out how to return all the way to the hatchery.
GGSA succeeded in convincing hatchery managers at the height of the drought to transport juvenile salmon downstream rather than release them into the lethal conditions that existed in Central Valley rivers during the drought. Few of these fish were able to find their way home as adults two years later, thus the pending experiment to see if we can improve survival without markedly increasing straying.
For natural spawning salmon, GGSA has been engaged at the State Water Resources Control Board in an effort to win a directive requiring a reduction in water diversions. We desperately need more runoff allowed safely carry the baby salmon downstream and to the ocean in many years. We also need that same water to fill floodplains along the way that bloom with tiny bugs, perfect for baby salmon to eat and grow strong on.