Salmon Return Numbers: November/December 2023

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Through SYRCL’s participation in the River Management Team (RMT), our staff receives monthly updates on the number of Chinook and steelhead utilizing the fish ladders at Daguerre Point Dam. This information is collected using VAKI River Watcher camera systems installed in the ladders, which snaps a photo every time a fish swims past it. The numbers from this last fall-run of Chinook salmon are in, and we are cautiously optimistic.  

It is important to recognize that passage numbers at the fish ladders are just one piece of the puzzle that helps us understand the population of adult salmon returning to spawn in the lower Yuba River. Data from redd and carcass surveys are also collected and plugged into models that will produce a more accurate population estimate of adults that make it to all stretches of the lower Yuba River.  

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 (a private 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, among many other monitoring tasks on the Lower Yuba River. 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 take a picture of each fish (or otter) that swims past them. Specialized software then identifies what species the fish is, and biologists later confirm it. This process gives us a count, reported monthly during the RMT meeting, of the number and species of fish traveling up the Yuba. 

Photo of an adult Chinook salmon passing through the VAKI live box at the north fish ladder.
Photo of an adult Chinook salmon passing through the VAKI live box at the north fish ladder. Photo credit: PSMFC 

Taking A Look At The Numbers 

Chinook salmon and trout dominated the number of passage events from September through December, with only 10 Sacramento pikeminnow and 18 Sacramento sucker moving up the ladders at this time. Salmon passage peaked in October, which is typical for migration, totaling 2,319 adults. This is twice as many as last year, compared to 1,109 in October of 2022.  

Total for fall-run (September- December only) Chinook salmon in 2023 was 4,316 and only 2,857 in 2022.  

September 2023 October 2023  November 2023 December 2023 
343 2,319 1,472 182 

In the BenthiCam Survey, another monitoring effort supported by the RMT, rainbow trout, striped bass, and green sturgeon were also seen in the plunge pool below Daguerre. Green sturgeon were first documented spawning below DPD by CDFW biologists in 2018. 

Green sturgeon captured on the BenthiCam in the DPD plunge pool. Photo credit: PSMFC 

In addition, redd surveys at the Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration project were conducted in the newly constructed side channel during the spawning period. With the previous wet winter sustaining higher flows during this time than in years past, more redds were observed than in any season since 2019 — with 50 counted in just one day! Because this project is located just below Daguerre Point Dam, salmon that spawned in the side channel did not swim up the ladders and were therefore not counted by the VAKI. PSMFC also completed carcass surveys below Daguerre, so a population estimate can be made for this stretch of the river as well.  

We are hopeful that the planned and completed restoration efforts will support an upward trend, but only continued monitoring will tell.  

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One Comment

  1. Mike Chapel says:

    Great, and surprising report!
    Many thanks!

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