Officials at the Coleman Fish Hatchery made their annual trip to the Sacramento River this week to release approximately 5 million baby “fall run” Chinook salmon. The timing of the release was to strategically chosen to help increase the survival rates of the salmon.
“The predicted increase in flows on the Sacramento River will hopefully help these fish move downstream towards the Pacific Ocean,” said Coleman Fish Hatchery on Facebook.
The release did not garner a ton of attention but was an important event in the health of salmon populations in Northern California. The typical survival and return rate of these salmon is about 1 percent, which should bring about 50,000 adult salmon back to the facility in coming years.
Historically, Chinook Salmon spawned in the upper reaches of Sacramento River tributaries, including the McCloud, Pit, and Little Sacramento Rivers. Shasta and Keswick dams now block access to the historic spawning areas. Winter-run Chinook, however, were able to take advantage of cool summer water releases downstream of Keswick Dam.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s the population recovered. However, beginning in 1970, the population experienced a dramatic decline — a low of approximately 200 spawners by the 1980’s. The run was classified as endangered under the state California Endangered Species Act in 1989, and as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1994.