Fall is in full swing, and so is the fall-run Chinook salmon migration in the Central Valley. As is our fall tradition, we’ve installed fish counting weirs on the Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers as part of our annual salmon monitoring. These fence-like structures direct fish through a single opening into a Riverwatcher scanner, which gives us a count, measurement, and video clip of every single passing fish. This set up provides a highly accurate way to monitor the salmon migration in real time on both of these tributaries to the San Joaquin River. As of Tuesday, November 5, our weirs had documented 1,406 salmon on the Stanislaus River and 1,054 salmon on the Tuolumne River. While the numbers are a bit lower than last year (when we had 3,289 and 2,316 salmon on each river, respectively, at this time), there should still be fish spawning activity to witness at the upcoming Stanislaus River Salmon Festival this Saturday, November 9, from 10 am–3pm at the Knights Ferry Recreation Area.
If you stand on the bridge at Knights Ferry and observe salmon in the river down below, those fish have migrated more than 180 river miles from the Golden Bridge – and that’s after migrating many more miles in the ocean! It’s a truly incredible feat worth celebrating. These long-distance swimmers play an important role in delivering nutrients from the ocean to the rivers where they come to spawn. In fact, much of the nitrogen in trees and other plants growing along streams in some areas can be traced back to the ocean and was delivered by spawning salmon. We recently shared this story of salmon migration with many schools near our Oakdale office as part of their annual Ag Days, and also with dozens of students from Manteca as part of a recent AgVenture outreach event.
Our team is gearing up for another big presence at this year’s Stanislaus Salmon Festival as part of another fall tradition. We’ll have revamped our “Salmon Cam” so you can watch salmon on their redds from different angles, and will have some fun new games at our booth. Come learn how salmon “smell” their way home to their spawning locations, or how we use microchips to do mark-recapture studies on fish! We’ll also be bringing out one of the inflatable catarafts used for our electrofishing studies on the Stanislaus River. Visitors will be able to climb inside to see what if feels like to sit at the oars. The 11th annual Salmon Festival is sure to be a fun and engaging event for the whole family, complete with more than 35 different exhibitors staffing interactive booths, fly fishing demonstrations, carcass surveys, musical performances, and plenty of food, crafts, and calendars of student salmon artwork available for purchase. Please stop by our booth to say hello!