Between water diversions, encroaching development and general habitat loss, fish populations in the Northern California seem to be heading south these days.
Though there are lots of factors contributing to the demise of our fisheries, there are also some bright spots.
The Fishery Foundation of California is a prime example of the latter. FFC is a non-profit organization comprised of passionate biologists dedicated to improving and enhancing the recreational and commercial fisheries of the state.
Based in Elk Grove, FFC has many projects that directly contribute to our fishing opportunities. Perhaps the most impressive example is the group’s salmon net pen project, which began back in 1993 and continues to this day.
At several sites throughout the Delta and Bay, FFC receives salmon smolts from hatcheries on the Feather, American, Mokelumne and Sacramento rivers and puts them into net pens so they can acclimate to their environment before being set free. If the baby salmon get dumped straight in, they are subject to high predation, but given a chance to get their bearings in the “protective custody” of the pens, they have a higher survival rate. In fact, check this out: Studies indicate that the little salmon’s escapement to the ocean and in-river returns of 3-year-old adults is up to 400 higher than hatchery fish not acclimated in net pens.
That’s an amazing stat! Especially when you consider the epic salmon collapse we had in 2008 and 2009 just happened to coincide with the FFC not running the net pens (due to contract issues) in the two years that those fish would have been smolts.
And you saw some proof positive that the FFC’s program works last year with that fantastic salmon season we had. And this year looks amazing as well, in part thanks to them.
The FFC also does fish rescue work, fish passage projects, population monitoring and a lot more.
Recently, they did a fish rescue on Auburn Ravine near Ophir, saving hundreds of rainbow and brown trout. On Secret Ravine in Roseville, they installed large woody debris for fish habitat and also built a rock ramp to allow salmon to pass over a barrier.
A bit to the south, FFC has also done quite a bit of work on the Consumnes River that benefits salmon and steelhead. There, they have basically removed all barriers to upstream migration and fish now have unimpeeded passage to Latrobe Falls. FFC installed box culverts, boulder weirs and rebuilt two fish ladders and added 10,000 tons of spawning gravel to enhance the river’s anadromous fish populations.
This year marks the Fishery Foundation’s 25th anniversary of helping the Golden State’s fish (and anglers). Hopefully, the next quarter century will see them do even more great things!
To learn more about their projects or to contribute to the cause, log onto www.fisheryfoundation.org