The Mendocino Voice —
The Noyo River, Pudding Creek, the Navarro. These are just some of the rivers that flow through Mendocino County. Starting from their headwaters in the chaparral hills, they wind down valleys of redwoods and pour out into the Pacific ocean. The rivers running through our county are some of the last left that still host wild California Central Coast coho, a genetically distinct subset of coho salmon, that once flourished in the region, with returns reaching up to 400,000 fish, according to one scientist, and filling rivers from Aptos Creek in Santa Cruz up to the the mouth of the Eel River.
Now, annual fish runs range between one to six percent of historical averages, with only a few thousand fish traveling the rivers each year. Conservationists, fisheries scientists, and fishermen alike hold their breath, waiting to see if the species will make it through another season.
Late this fall, Trout Unlimited completed three projects intended to support the fishery’s survival, replacing old infrastructure along the Skunk Train’s path that was obstructing fish passage. The projects opened up two miles of previously inaccessible coho habitat that Trout Unlimited claims is critical to the species reproductive success, and so ultimately, their survival. Trout Unlimited is a conservation nonprofit that works across North America protecting cold water fish species and the places they need. Here on the North Coast, the Fort Bragg branch works to restore what was once a thriving population of native fish species like coho and steelhead, trying to bring them back up to their previous numbers, or at least further away from the tenuous situation they are in now.