State/National/WorldFish Rap

CDFW Releases 500,000 Juvenile Salmon into Klamath River

In late April, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) successfully introduced around 500,000 juvenile salmon into the Klamath River, just below the Iron Gate Dam.

On April 16, accompanied by leaders from various Native American tribes, including the Karuk, Yurok, Shasta Indian Nation and Quartz Valley Indian tribes, CDFW released approximately 90,000 yearling coho salmon. This marked the first significant release of coho salmon, a species listed as threatened by both the state and federal governments, into the Klamath River since the initiation of dam removal efforts late last year. The fish were transported approximately 7 miles from CDFW’s modern Fall Creek Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County and were released following speeches and a Tribal blessing.

“We’re all here for the same reason,” said Kenneth Brink, vice chairman of the Karuk Tribe, in a statement. “We’re all here to pray for these fish to make it and to see justice for our people down river. It’s a different time we are living in now. Our kids no longer have to see our river die. We are watching our river heal now. It’s a great time.”

“These baby fish represent hope,” said Yurok Tribal Council Member Phillip Williams. “The Klamath was mistreated for more than a century, but now the river is healing and so are we. Through dam removal, habitat restoration and hatchery augmentation, we are building a brighter future for the next generations.”

CDFW’s Northern Region Inland Fisheries Program Manager Jason Roberts stated, “These will be the first fish from the hatchery that will come back to a free-flowing Klamath River. They will help repopulate the newly opened habitat above the dams and provide us with brood stock for future years of coho releases.”

The next day, on April 17, CDFW released over 400,000 fall-run Chinook salmon fry from the same spot below Iron Gate. These coho and Chinook salmon are anticipated to return to an undammed Klamath River in two to four years, following their time in the Pacific Ocean, accessing new spawning and rearing habitats due to dam removal.

According to Roberts, river conditions were optimal for the salmon releases, with water temperatures at 51 degrees, high levels of dissolved oxygen and low turbidity.

In the two weeks leading up to the release, CDFW assessed river conditions further by placing “sentinel” juvenile salmon in holding enclosures for 48 hours at various Klamath River locations. All 200 salmon in the sentinel study survived, showing no adverse effects from their time in the river.

Later this spring, CDFW plans to release around 1.75 million fall-run Chinook salmon smolts into the river. CDFW employs varying fish ages and release strategies to enhance survival rates. All forthcoming salmon releases will occur below Iron Gate until the dam removal is finalized. That is scheduled for later this year.

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