Strong 2017 salmon season may have consequences

Marin IJ –

The summer of 2017 was a fishing season to remember for Bay Area salmon fishermen, who vividly recall some of the best action in years for ocean Chinook. During a blitz of activity off the San Mateo coast in July, boatloads of 20 anglers or more caught their two-fish personal limits in as little as 40 minutes, day after day after day. The hot fishing — the best some experienced captains had seen — lasted through September.

But the great fishing, partially the result of critical hatchery operations decisions in the drought years of 2014 and 2015, has come with serious consequences that could mean significantly fewer adult salmon two years from now. It depends in part on the weather between now and May.

In the spring of 2014, the Sacramento River was running so low and warm — lethal conditions for young salmon — that managers of the Coleman National Fish Hatchery loaded its full year’s production of 12 million baby fish into tanker trucks, drove them downstream and released the salmon directly into the lower delta. They did the same thing the next year.

This greatly increased survival of the young fish. However, because the young salmon were essentially airlifted to the ocean, they were unable to follow their way back to their birth site, as salmon are legendary for being able to do.

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