Through SYRCL’s participation in the River Management Team (RMT), we get monthly updates on the number of Chinook and steelhead utilizing the fish ladders at Daguerre Point Dam. The latest numbers are in, and it seems that the return of cool weather in October has spurred a rapid increase in salmon returning to the Yuba.
During winters with lots of water, salmon tend to spend more time in the Delta and lower in the river system before they start the migration to their historic spawning reaches. This is the trend we saw in 2019-2020 salmon year, and based on our October numbers, it has proven true this year as well.
What Is The RMT?
The RMT is a group of agency and non-profit representatives that work together to better understand and promote research on the Lower Yuba River. Members of the RMT include Yuba Water Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, State Water Resources Control Board, Dept of Water Resources, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, CA Dept Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, HDR (an engineering firm), and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The RMT helps fund restoration, monitoring, and make science-informed decisions for the Lower Yuba River.
The RMT funds Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to provide the fish count updates. They do so through the use of VAKI River Watcher camera systems. These cameras are located in the fish ladders at Daguerre Point Dam and they take a picture of each fish (or otter) that swims past them. Specialized software then identifies what species the fish is. This process gives us a count of the number and species of fish traveling up the Yuba which is then reported monthly during the RMT meeting.
Taking A Look At The Numbers
The most exciting portion of this update is that in the month of October there were 1,436 Chinook that moved past the VAKI River Watcher cameras. That’s almost five times more than we saw in September. And, we expect that number to grow as Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission had 858 more October fish photos to process.
There has also been lots of spawning activity throughout the Yuba River which is mostly occurring upstream of Daguerre Point Dam. The Chinook that hatch from these redds will grow up on the floodplain restoration projects SYRCL works on at Long Bar and at Hallwood.
In the BenthiCam Survey, another monitoring effort supported by the RMT, Chinook salmon and Green sturgeon were also seen in the plunge pool below Daguerre, as were a number of Striped Bass (non native) and Sacramento Suckers. Green sturgeon were first documented spawning below DPD by CDFW biologists in 2018.
We are optimistic that the large number of salmon moving into the Yuba River in October will be followed by large numbers in November as well, likely tailing off in December as the Chinook spawning season comes to an end. In recent years, the maximum number of Chinook seen in a season was about 4,500, and to date we’ve seen almost 2,000 Chinook pass by Daguerre Point Dam. While we’re on track for a good year, it’s worth remembering that the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Anadromous Fish Restoration Program has a target of 65,000 and the historic run was likely around 300,000.
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