The California Department of Fish and Game recently released adult coho salmon in Salmon Creek, Sonoma County to reestablish a coho salmon population.
Releasing hatchery-reared adult coho salmon is a relatively new technique that has the advantages of not requiring spawning in a hatchery, allowing the released fish to establish natural mating patterns and subjecting their offspring to natural selective pressures from birth on.
This is the fourth consecutive year adult salmon were released. This year 200 adults were released on two separate occasions in late December 2011 and early January 2012. The released coho included 120 males and 80 females, predominantly hybrids derived from mating between coho salmon of Russian River and Olema Creek origin, with a small number of pure Russian River coho and Olema Creek coho.
“We are at a critical moment in the survival of the coho salmon on the California coast,” said Manfred Kittel, CDFG Coho Salmon Recovery coordinator. “CDFG and our federal and environmental partners must take aggressive actions to save the species from becoming extinct in central California.”
As in previous years, this year’s fish were released near the mouth of Salmon Creek with the hope that the fish will migrate upstream to find suitable spawning habitat in one of Salmon Creek’s tributaries. Despite the general lack of rain this season, biologists are optimistic that the recently released coho should be able to find spawning habitat in some upstream portions of Salmon Creek and its tributaries.
The release of adult coho in Salmon Creek is a joint effort between CDFG, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other entities, including private landowners. The Salmon Creek access site is located a few miles north of Bodega Bay on the Chanslor Ranch owned by George Gross.
“The entire coho recovery team appreciates Mr. Gross allowing us to access the creek on his property for the past four years,” said Kittel. “There are few optimal places where adult coho can be released and we appreciate the help we get from Chanslor Ranch.”
In 2008, 2009 and 2010 field biologists collected tissue samples and confirmed that the released coho spawned successfully in several tributaries and in all possible mating combinations.
Fish surveys planned for the coming summer in the Salmon Creek watershed will tell CDFG biologists whether the latest released group of adult coho salmon has reproduced successfully and whether any of the progeny from the first release in winter 2008 have returned this season from the ocean to spawn in the watershed where their life’s journey began three years ago.