Coleman Hatchery to Release 1.4 Million Salmon Smolts into Bay Acclimation Pens.

Coleman Hatchery to Release 1.4 Million Salmon Smolts into Bay Acclimation Pens.
by Dan Bacher

For the first time in over a decade, the Coleman National Fish Hatchery, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will truck 1.4 million of its 12.6 million Chinook salmon smolts to be released this spring to San Pablo Bay to assess the effect of the release site on salmon harvest and returns to the hatchery.

The smolts trucked to San Pablo Bay will be placed in net pens operated by the Fishery Foundation of California for acclimatization and then released into the bay. When salmon smolts released by the California Department of Fish and Game have been placed in the acclimation pens, smolt survival is five times what it would have been if the fish had released directly into the river, according to Dick Pool, owner of Pro-Troll Fishing Products.

"They have accommodated our request and will truck 1.4 million smolts around the California Delta to the acclimation pens in San Pablo Bay," said Pool. "The first batch of 400,000 fish will move on April 23rd. These fish will join 17 million smolts being trucked by DFG from the state hatcheries to the release pens. We hope these fish will provide a good base for rebuilding the stocks in the ocean."

The program occurs at a time when Central Valley salmon stocks are in a state of unprecedented collapse. Although water exports from the California Delta and declining water quality, combined with bad ocean conditions, are regarded as the key factors in the collapse, fishing and conservation groups are trying to improve hatchery release practices so that more salmon will survive and return to spawn as adults.

For two years, 2005 and 2006, the DFG's salmon smolts weren't placed into the pens. During this time, the mortality among salmon increased dramatically as the unacclimated smolts were decimated by birds and predatory fish after being released directly into the bay. This undoubtedly contributed, along with other factors, to the Central Valley salmon collapse.

Fortunately, Nels Johnson, outdoor editor at the Marin Independent Journal, last year prodded Assemblyman Jared Huffman to conduct an investigation of why the pens weren't being used, resulting in the
decimation of stunned salmon smolts as they were dumped into San Pablo Bay without being acclimated. Johnson and fishing groups pressured the DFG to make sure that the highly successful acclimation pens were used in future releases of salmon smolts from state fish hatcheries.

A portion of the smolts to be released by Coleman Hatchery will have coded-wire tags to identify them as part of this experiment. As these smolts are harvested or return as adults, fisheries biologists will be able to determine the rate of return of these fish.

"This release strategy increases the likelihood that these fish will return to the upper Sacramento River as adults to contribute to the upper Sacramento in-river fishery, and return to the hatchery in sufficient numbers to perpetuate the runs and the rograms," according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release. "Another important goal of the hatchery is to contribute to the ocean sport and commercial fishery. Coleman NFH contributes up to 100,000 Chinook annually to the ocean fisheries as well as thousands of fish for the fisheries in the Sacramento River."

A number of organizations, including the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Allied Fishing Groups, Water4Fish, the Coastside Fishing Club, the Golden Gate Fishermen's Association and the Pacific
Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and Representative Wally Herger are supporting Coleman Hatchery's experimental salmon release program.

While the acclimation program will greatly assist the survival of hatchery smolts, it is crucial that anglers and conservationists concentrate on pressuring the state and federal governments to
dramatically improve conditions in the Bay-Delta Estuary and Central Valley rivers so that both wild and hatchery fish can thrive. The salmon crisis will only be resolved when state and federal water exports from the Delta are decreased to below 5,000,000 acre feet per year, when the State Water Quality Board finally regulates agricultural water pollution, when dams and other obstacles to fish migration, wherever possible, are removed, and when the state and federal governments finally mitigate for all of the losses to our fisheries caused by their water projects.

For more information, contact Dick Pool, Pro-Troll Fishing Products, 5700A Imhoff Drive, Concord, CA 94520, (925) 825-8560, Fax (925) 825-8591, email rbpool@protroll.com website www.protroll.com.

Here is the release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

NEWS RELEASE
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
California & Nevada Region
http://www.fws.gov/cno

Please deliver to the appropriate Outdoor/Environmental Editor
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to get you the information you need in a costeffective
and timely manner. Please contact us if you do not wish to receive this information or if you prefer it in a different format. Thank You.
Phone: 916-978-6156
Fax: 916-414-6486
Email: fw8cnonews@fws.gov
------------------------------------------------
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2008
EA08-20
For immediate release
Contacts:
Alexandra Pitts, California and Nevada Regional Office: 916/ 414-6464
Jim Smith, Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office: 530/ 527-3043
Scott Hamelberg, Coleman National Fish Hatchery: 530/ 365-8622

Coleman National Fish Hatchery Will Release 12 Million Chinook Salmon Smolts

The U.S Fish and Wildlife announced today that the Coleman National Fish Hatchery will be
releasing 12.6 million Chinook salmon smolts in phases between April 23, and May 2, 2008. The
Chinook smolts, 3 inches in length, have been raised at Coleman NFH in Anderson, California as
part of the hatchery's role in mitigating for the Shasta and Keswick dams on the upper
Sacramento River.

For the first time in over a decade, Coleman NFH will truck 1.4 million of the 12.6 million Chinook salmon smolts from the hatchery over 300 miles to San Pablo Bay to assess the effect of the release site on salmon harvest and returns to the hatchery.

The smolts trucked to San Pablo Bay will be placed in net pens operated by the Fishery Foundation of California for acclimatization and then released in to the bay. A portion of the smolts will have coded-wire tags to identify them as part of this experiment. As these smolts are harvested or return as adults, fisheries biologists will be able to
determine the rate of return of these fish.

Coleman National Fish Hatchery was constructed in 1942 as part of the mitigation measures to help preserve significant runs of Chinook salmon threatened by the loss of natural spawning areas resulting from the construction of Shasta and Keswick dams on the upper Sacramento River. One of the primary goals of the hatchery is to assure that salmon return to the upper Sacramento River. Fall Chinook salmon smolts produced at the Coleman
NFH are typically released on-site so that they complete the imprinting cycle during their outmigration to the ocean.

This release strategy increases the likelihood that these fish will return to the upper Sacramento River as adults to contribute to the upper Sacramento in-river fishery, and return to the hatchery in sufficient numbers to perpetuate the runs and the programs. Another important goal of the hatchery is to contribute to the ocean sport and commercial fishery. Coleman NFH contributes up to 100,000 Chinook annually to the ocean fisheries as well as
thousands of fish for the fisheries in the Sacramento River.

Situated on Battle Creek, a small, cold water tributary of the Sacramento River, the hatchery
produces 12 million fall Chinook salmon, 1 million late-fall Chinook salmon, and 600,000 steelhead trout annually. Coleman NFH also has a coded wire tagging
program in which young fish are taken from the raceways to the tagging trailer in an aerated tank.

After sedation, fish are adipose fin clipped to provide an external mark that identifies coded-wire tagged fish. After the fin clip, fish are placed in a nose cone and a small wire tag is injected into the cartilaginous portion of the nose. This small tag will remain in place for the entire life of the fish. When these fish return as adults the tag can be removed and read with the aid of a microscope. The coded-wire tag code gives the biologist information about which hatchery the fish came from, the year the fish was hatched, tagged, released, and other pertinent information such as parental lineage.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific
excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment
to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

www.fws.gov.