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Californian Fish Evacuated Due to Drought

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Drought is forcing state officials to evacuate rainbow trout and steelhead from two hatcheries on the American River amid concern the water will become warm enough to kill the fish in coming weeks.

 

Source: Matt Weiser/ Sacramento Bee

 

The Sacramento Bee reports that:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will use tanker trucks to remove about one million trout from the American River Hatchery. From there, they will be planted throughout the state as usual – mostly in Sierra Nevada lakes – but at a much younger age and smaller size.


The department also will release 430,000 Central Valley steelhead from Nimbus Hatchery into the American River – about six months earlier than usual. These fish will also be smaller than usual, which means they will be less likely to survive to adulthood, said William Cox, hatchery program manager for the department.


Water temperatures of 78 degrees are considered lethal to rainbow trout and steelhead. Cox said temperatures in the American River are projected to become that warm later this summer because there is so little mountain runoff, and because Folsom and Nimbus reservoirs are already so depleted. They have no reserve of cold water to help fish survive.


The water doesn’t have to get that warm before the fish are harmed. They’ll begin showing signs of stress and disease once water temperatures reach 65 degrees.


Cox said the plan to evacuate the hatcheries resulted from difficult choices that began in January when it became clear a severe drought was taking hold in the state. The goal is to give the fish more options to survive and avoid “major losses” that could occur if they were held in the hatcheries.


“We wouldn’t want to let these fish just sit there and cook,” Cox said.


So far, no other state hatcheries are being evacuated. However, state and federal officials earlier this year took extraordinary measures to protect some 12 million hatchery salmon from warm water temperatures and low river flows throughout the Sacramento Valley. Most of those Chinook salmon made their downstream migration in tanker trucks on the highway, rather than the Sacramento River, as a means to assure that more of them can survive the drought.


Cox said the state has never before evacuated the hatcheries entirely in this manner. They were partially evacuated during the drought that gripped California in the early 1990s.


“It’s not a good picture for the fish at these hatcheries,” he said.


He said the rainbow trout should survive being transplanted at a younger age without much trouble, although they will be more vulnerable to predators wherever they are transplanted.


The steelhead are a different story, because they have not yet matured to the point where the instinct to swim downstream takes hold. As a result, they will remain vulnerable to warm temperatures and predators, including birds and striped bass. Steelhead are normally released from the hatchery when they are about 1 year old. These are half that age.


“My expectation is yes, they will have more difficulty in surviving because they are younger and smaller and they are not at a size where they are ready to migrate out to the ocean,” Cox said.


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Comments (7 posted):

grtlksmarlin on 17/06/2014 20:16:01
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Though I get all of the good intentions, and I applaud efforts to conserve and protect native wildlife, and mean no disrespect to our Californian forum members........I have to say down deep that I find California on the whole to be one of the kookiest states ever. B.E.F.
fredaevans on 17/06/2014 22:05:31
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Though I get all of the good intentions, and I applaud efforts to conserve and protect native wildlife, and mean no disrespect to our Californian forum members........I have to say down deep that I find California on the whole to be one of the kookiest states ever. B.E.F. Not 'Kookie' (sp?) at all; zero other choice. These small critters have a very low tolerance for water above (if memory serves) 68 degrees. Which is why you find the things stacked up in deeper pools in hot weather. Which is what get here on the Rogue. The extra option we have is the Wm. Jess Dam that pulls water out of the pool at about 200 feet below the surface. Water coming out (even in August/September) will be right at 42 degrees. You get 40'ish miles down stream (Grants Pass) that can be pushing 70. 'Cure?' Dump more water!!! fae
tyler_durden on 17/06/2014 22:09:05
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They're just releasing the hatchery fish early is all. Sent from my BNTV600 using Tapatalk
trout trekker on 17/06/2014 23:21:54
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This is kind of a non-story. I got a notification from NDOW a couple of months ago that Nevada was going to expedite the majority of their river stocking of trout ( I think it was back in April ), because of the projected low flows and high water temps, due to the lack of snow pack / drought and that didn’t make headlines. While it did show up here, the lifting of bag limits and encouraging anglers to help deplete the fish stocks on a couple of their reservoirs where fish survival this year is in doubt due to drought conditions, didn’t get a whole lot of attention. I’ve read that something like 1 in 8 Americans lives in California, so just about anything having to do with California will make somebody’s hit parade, add to that the word Evacuation and you’ll get some real traction. This is true of any state with a larger population, take for instance Michigan. Any headlines out of Detroit lately? This sort of malarkey is why I don’t have any form of broadcast television in our home anymore…starting to feel that way about what passes for news and updates on this website too. There are all sorts of serious fishery related programs and conservation issues out there, but what we get, is a headline that the bath water coming out of Sac States rowing basin ( a.k.a Nimbus ) is to warm and they’ll need to get the little Striper munch-able’s out of the nursery before they get poached like a preverbal egg. Dave For those who are interested, this is the hatchery: Nimbus Fish Hatchery - About the Facility
grtlksmarlin on 18/06/2014 01:01:53
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This is true of any state with a larger population, take for instance Michigan. Any headlines out of Detroit lately? Well yes, here would be the latest news for Detroit. [url=http://www.markjohnston.us/data/phonesounds/disconnected.wav][url]http://www.markjohnston.us/data/phonesounds/disconnected.wav B.E.F.
Bigfly on 18/06/2014 17:13:25
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No offense taken....If the non-kooky east coasters ever have a serious drought, I'll make sure I comment......based on lack of info, and personal bias of course. (Now wouldn't that be kooky...) If all hatcheries disappeared overnight, I wouldn't miss a beat. Wild IS best..... Jim
yikes on 18/06/2014 21:38:27
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I have to say down deep that I find California on the whole to be one of the kookiest states ever. On the other hand, I saw that movie "Escanaba in da Moonlight", and it makes me wonder what's going on in the 'Yooper'.
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