Juvenile Chinooks Rescued from Drought Released Into California’s Klamath River

Iron Gate salmon plant
The California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife has released into the Klamath River 1.1 million juvenile Chinook salmon held over the summer at the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery. Photo via CDFW.

More than two million juvenile Chinook salmon that were rescued from drought conditions by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are being released back into the Klamath River with cooler temperatures and increased water flow giving them a better chance at survival.

The Chinooks, hatched in early 2021 at CDFW’s Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County, spent the summer at three different CDFW facilities, including a million fish trucked to trinity River Hatchery through Redding in triple-digit temperatures. CDFW officials said all three groups of fish did exceptionally well over the summer.

Mark Clifford, hatchery senior environmental scientist for CDFW’s Northern Region, said CDFW staff worked for several months at all three locations to save the fish, which otherwise would have perished.

Now those more than two million healthy Chinooks are on their way to the Pacific Ocean and will ultimately benefit commercial, tribal and recreational fisheries and retain the intrinsic value of these fish and their genetics for the Klamath River population, Clifford said.

Four dams on the Klamath River are slated for removal in coming years, in what is the largest dam removal effort in U.S. history.

The removal of these dams is expected to restore fish access to historic salmon habitat in several rivers and tributaries connected to the upper Klamath River above the dams. CDFW officials said juvenile fish released this year could be the first salmon to return to the new Klamath River after their life in the ocean and find miles of additional spawning habitat and contribute to future generations of wild fish.

California’s Wildlife Conservation Board meanwhile approved in mid-November about $25 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California.

Some of the 31 approved projects benefit fish and wildlife, including some endangered species. Others will provide public access to important natural resources. These include $3.88 million to The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County on a cooperative project with the California Department of Conservation and California State Coastal Conservancy for a conservation easement over some 7,682 acres of Attiyah Ranch to protect habitat, migration corridors and wildlife connectivity within the Nacimiento River watershed northwest of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County.