Salmon restoration has become of critical importance in the last few years. Thankfully a new initiative has been organized to help repopulate the salmon populations.
Since the construction of the Shasta Dam and Keswick Dam in the 1940s, salmon have faced many challenges. First, not being able to access the high-elevation and cold McCloud River, their natural spawning habitat. Next, they have been restricted to laying their eggs at the lower reaches of the Sacramento River. The problem with this is the eggs are easily destroyed by the blazing hot summer temperatures. It has been a long tale of survival for the salmon.
To put this in proper perspective, the winter-run Chinook, a specie of salmon once estimated to be 82,000 fish, dropped below 100 in this century.
Unfortunately, hatcheries can only do so much.
The loss of salmon threatens the growth of commercial fishing in the state, which is one of the state’s economically thriving industries. Salmon also continues to be important to Native American culture and traditional food, notably the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.
We can’t afford to lose the salmon.
A New Era of Salmon Restoration
Recently, over 40,000 salmon eggs were reintroduced to their natural spawning habitat in the McCloud River. This project is the work of the Juvenile Salmonid Collection System Pilot Project. This enormous project entails trapping adult winter-run Chinook salmon in the lower Sacramento and moving them to the McCloud River to spawn.
Thankfully, so far, 90 percent of the restored salmon eggs hatched successfully and are thriving in the McCloud River. These newly restored fish are reportedly growing faster than the hatchery fish.
Apart from the Juvenile Salmonid Collection System Pilot Project, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) collaborated with other organizations to restore 10 miles of river. This project was instrumental in introducing new procedures to enhance salmon habitat by lowering water temperatures and improving stream flows.
To share their work’s impact on salmon restoration, TNC installed an underwater camera during the spawning season. This camera enabled the public to watch 30,000 winter-run Chinook return to the river, a record in recent years. Imagine the joy and thrill.
These incredible scenes definitely rekindle hope. Hope for the fishermen. Hope for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in the preservation of their cultural heritage. And hope for California, on the continuity of its rich natural legacy and commercial fishing.
Salmon are also Making it to the Ocean
In an unaltered environment, salmon would simply swim downstream, past San Francisco Bay, and out into the ocean. But with the Shasta dam blocking their migration, the Juvenile Salmonid Collection project team had to recapture the growing fish by placing several traps on the McCloud River. The captured fish were then released into the Sacramento River. The idea behind this is to ensure these salmon make it to the ocean and eventually survive. Although this process is risky for the fish, it ensures the fish survive because they need the ocean.
Thankfully, the McCloud River has benefited from the recent rain storms and the snow melt. With increased river flow, the chances that the salmon will reach the ocean this year are quite high. This will help the salmon escape the hot temperature and the predators of the Delta.
Although a lot more work is still required to preserve the salmon, particularly in restoring the entire habitat chain – from spawning to rearing – we believe the current restoration effort is a huge silver lining in a dark cloud.
For nature lovers, we can heave a sigh of relief, knowing that better days are ahead for the salmon.
Book Your Trip to See the Salmon
Whether you simply want to see the salmon in their natural habitat, or you are a sports fisherman, Shasta Lake and the surrounding area have something to offer you.
Shasta Lake has it all. Hiking, boating, fishing, and more. Book your well-deserved Shasta Lake vacation today.
Hire a small boat for a relaxing day on the water or hike out and wade in for some serious fishing. Fishing is a great way to spend R & R away from the madding crowd and enjoy a peaceful afternoon in the outdoors with family and friends.