Numbers of fall Chinooks returning to Central Valley rivers are down from last year

Via By Dan Bacher Stockton Record Correspondent

Bright chinook salmon like this 24-pound beauty caught during a trip with Rob Reimers on Rustic Rob’s Guide Service on Nov. 21 are moving into the Sacramento River at Knights Landing. Courtesy of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service

OROVILLE – Preliminary numbers of fall-run Chinook salmon reported on the Feather, Sacramento, American and Mokelumne rivers are down considerably from last year, although the complete numbers won’t be available from the Department of Fish and Wildlife until next year.

The state’s Feather River Fish Hatchery reported a total of 16,572 fall run adults and 1,490 jacks (2-year-olds) this fall. That’s less than the about 25,000 fish the hatchery saw last year, but the hatchery is still expected to meet its production goal of 6 million smolts (juvenile fish).

“We have taken 15 million green eggs so far, but we do have some problems with fertility,” said Anna Kastner, hatchery manager. “Normally we have a 20% loss of eggs; this year it was 35 to 45%. The jack numbers are also really low.”

Ron Stone, supervisory biologist at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery, said the facility on Battle Creek has taken 4,083 females for spawning and 20,415,000 green eggs.

“We will be definitely be able to meet the production goal of 12 million smolts, based on the green eggs that we have taken so for,” said Stone.

Their preliminary estimate of the number of the fall salmon that returned to Battle Creek was about 30,000. “It’s definitely more than anybody here anticipated,” he said.

Nimbus Fish Hatchery on the American is still spawning salmon at this time and normally spawns steelhead into December. The staff has spawned a total of 1,636 fish and has taken a total of 747,000 eggs as of Nov. 16.

The Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery also continues to spawn salmon and is seeing much lower numbers of fish than last season. Only 2,270 salmon to date have gone over the Woodbridge Diversion Dam according to Bill Smith, hatchery manager.

While the numbers are down substantially from last year, Smith noted that the 3-year-old kings were the largest they’ve seen in more than a decade. “We’ve seen several over 30 pounds and a lot over 20 pounds,” said Smith.

The hatchery has taken over 2 million eggs – they need a total of 7 million eggs. “We’re working on it,” said Smith. “We are doing everything we can to meet our production goal.”

“We are concerned and a little mystified by what appears to be low returns to the Central Valley,” said John McManus, President of the Golden State Salmon Association (GSSA), “especially after we saw some fairly decent fishing in the ocean this past season.”

McManus is glad that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has made the decision to move some salmon eggs from the Feather to the Mokelumne to keep the salmon enhancement program going next year.

This should help provide juvenile salmon to the Coastside Fishing Club net pens in Half Moon Bay, the Fort Baker high survival release site and the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project release sites in Santa Cruz and Monterey, McManus said.

Sacramento late fall Chinooks: Big, beautiful late fall Chinook salmon are showing in the Sacramento River at Knights Landing.

One angler, Steve, landed two chrome bright Chinooks to 24 pounds while fishing Rob’s Dragon Glow Brad’s Killerfish with Capt. Rob Reimers of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service on Saturday, Nov. 21. Another angler, Bill, caught two big Chinooks to 25 pounds with Reimers the following day. Information: (530) 632-0051.

New record Amador rainbow: Just a week after the Lake Amador cutbow record of 20.12 pounds was set, Jeremy Silvas caught a new lake record rainbow weighing 19.30 pounds on Nov. 18. He was fishing near the dam with a small gold/red Kastmaster when he hooked the fish. The fish measured 31.5 inches in length and 23 inches in girth. Information: (209) 274-4739.  

Contact Record correspondent Dan Bacher at