Record spring salmon run on Butte Creek turns into disaster as most fish die before spawning

Red Green and Blue

A record run of over 18,000 spring Chinook has returned to Butte Creek, a Sacramento River tributary, the second largest since 20,000 fish ascended the creek in 1998, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Alan Harthorn of Friends of Butte Creek estimates the size of this year’s run to be even larger, 25,000 fish.

Yet this has all changed recently. The potential of a successful spawn becomes increasingly dim as thousands of adult spring run salmon on Butte Creek die before spawning.

“Disaster is really hitting home on Butte Creek, where over 12,000 adult spring run salmon have died prematurely,” said Harthorn. “There may be only a few thousand left to spawn if we’re lucky.”

The CDFW reported in their latest snorkel survey report on the creek that 12,370 salmon have died before spawning from June 1 to July 27, 2021. “The water is so turbid and they are so busy counting carcasses they can’t get a good estimate of how many fish are left,” noted Harthorn.

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