Klamath River Basin Salmon in Dire Straits

Over the past 20 to 30 years, I have attended many of the Klamath Fisheries Management Council (KFMC now federally sunset) Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) National Fisheries Management Service (NFMS) California Department Fish and Game Commissioners meetings plus being on the Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group (TAMWG part of the TRRP) for over 16yrs plus being a fishing guide for 22yrs. So, I do have somewhat of an insight of what is going on with the Trinity River and the Klamath River Basin fisheries. I can remember back in the early 90’s the Klamath River Basin had a similar incident of only having 600 Fall Run Chinook salmon for all of the Trinity River. We fought for more salmon to no avail and had to fish for what was offered. The fishermen who came to fish the Trinity were very unhappy and let everyone know about it. We are now in the same circumstances except now it is the health of the fishery and we still can’t be heard by the government agencies. I believe Mr. Wolf Vonn (Trinity Journal March 4, 2020 “Healthy Fishery should be goal”) came very close to expressing the Goal for the Klamath River Basin. The problem I see is “getting the Hoopa Tribe to cooperate” and work with the rest of the fishermen that use the river!

   As you read in the Trinity Journal (March 4, 2020 pg. 3) this year’s salmon run is again on the verge of collapsing. We, the fishermen, need to write letters and emails to your Congressmen, Senators, local Representatives and the Calif. Fish and Game Commissioners of your displeasure in not providing the proper controls and habitat for the Fall Chinook salmon, Coho salmon and steelhead. We need to speak loudly and long in order to get their attention that they are not doing their job to provide the proper habitat and cold water for the fisheries therefore allowing the fisheries to collapse. 

2019 Klamath River Chinook adult salmon Harvest as reported to the PFMC: Klamath River (below 101 Bridge, Tribal 3,363, Sport 1,011; (above 101 Bridge to Weitchpec Bridge) Tribal 638, Sport 4,818; Weitchpec Bridge to Iron Gate Dam 1,776 (the majority of these salmon were caught above I-5); Trinity River (Hoopa Reservation) 2,564, Sport 469; Totals, Tribal 6,565; Sport 8,073. Remember this is only preliminary counts and will only be final after any adjustments the PFMC makes at their April meeting. The CDFW will make a final determination for Klamath River Basin and the Sacramento River Fall Chinook salmon Harvest in April right after the PFMC meeting.      

Trinity River Hatchery: Julian week 10 ending Mar. 11; Fall Chinook, 0-jacks, 0-adults, total 0, season total 1,586, combined total 6,064; Coho, 0-jacks, 0-adults, total 0, season total 649; steelhead 14, season total 378.Ther is one more week for Trinity River Hatchery harvest. To provide enough eggs for hatchery Coho it will take 300 females and 300 males for  a total of 600 Coho salmon in order to make their goal 400,000 for release; for the Steelhead it will take 200 females and 200 males for a total of 400 steelhead in order to release 448,000 steelhead from the Trinity River Hatchery into the Trinity River. I am not sure if the TRH is going to get enough steelhead to make the egg quota for this year. I am wondering if the Hoopa collected too many hatchery steelhead at their weir to maybe affect this year’s return and egg quota. 

Fishing: The Lower Trinity is fishing slow. It is hard to locate the steelhead. There are still steelhead making their way up the river but with the low clear water it is hard to get the fish to strike without spooking them. There is better water down in the Hoopa section of the river but some of the passages are rocky and bumpy. Form the information I have been getting for the upper river it is even worse for the drift boaters. Those who do fish the upper sections have all switched over to using rafts. The little bit of rain (0.08in) we got this past week was not enough to even color the water let alone provide the water the fish need to make their way up to their spawning grounds.

Mid-Klamath to Happy Camp: The Klamath at Weitchpec is flowing about 5,582cfs. I hate to say this but there hasn’t been much action in the Weitchpec to Orleans area. Most of the fishing has been above I-5 from the info I received this week. 

Lake Conditions: Whiskeytown is 85% of capacity (a decrease of 0%) with inflows of 302cfs and releasing 268cfs on to Keswick and the Sacramento River. Shasta Lake is 78% of capacity (an increase of 0% minus 1ft) with inflows of 5,100cfs and releasing 4,935cfs into Keswick. Keswick is 88% (an increase of 5%) with inflows of 5,316cfs and releasing 5,147cfs into the Sacramento river. Oroville Lake is 64% of capacity (an increase of 0% minus 1ft) with inflows of 1,969cfs with releases of 843cfs into the Feather River. Folsom Lake is 44% of capacity (a decrease of 2% minus 1ft) with inflows of 1,420cfs and releases of 2,041cfs into the American River.

Trinity Lake: The lake is 27ft below the overflow (a decrease of 0ft) and 83% of capacity (an increase of 0%) and inflows of 784cfs and releasing 321cfs into Lewiston Lake with 115cfs being diverted to Whiskeytown Lake and on to Keswick Power Plant, which is releasing 5,508cfs into the Sacramento River.

Trinity River flows and conditions: Lewiston Dam is 95% of capacity (a decrease of 1%) and water releases are 301cfs with water temperatures of 48.6 degrees, as of 1:30pm today Sunday March 8, 2020. Limekiln Gulch is 4.72ft and flowing 327cfs. Douglas City is 6.37ft with flows of 381cfs. and air temps of 53 with water temperatures of 47.6 degrees. Junction City is 1.83ft and flowing 386cfs. Helena is 8.53ft and flowing 512cfs with water temps of 47.5 degrees. Cedar Flat (Burnt Ranch) is 3.27ft and flowing 741cfs. South Fork of the Trinity near Hyampom is 3.02ft and flowing 353cfs. Willow Creek is estimated at 1,094cfs with air temps of 55 degrees and water at 48 degrees. Hoopa is 12.80ft and flowing 1,728cfs with water at 48.8 degrees. Water flows at the mouth of the Trinity River at the Klamath are estimated to be 5,582cfs.

Klamath River flows and conditions: Iron Gate is releasing 1,053cfs. Seiad Valley is 2.73ft flowing 1,647cfs. Happy Camp is estimated at 1,870cfs, Somes Bar is estimated to be 2,845cfs, and the Salmon River is 2.93ft flowing at 1,009cfs. Orleans is 4.10ft and flowing 3,854cfs, the Klamath River at Terwer Creek is 10.40ft with flows of 7,012cfs and water temps are 49.4 degrees. Flows for the Smith River at Jedia Smith are 6.16ft with flows of 1,038cfs. and flows at Dr. Fine Bridge are 12.83ft at N/A cfs.

    Temperatures in the Valley last week had a high of 73 and a low of 33. Rain for the week was 0.08in with a water year to date of 33.17 inches, with snow in willow Creek of 1.45in. in the valley to date. Forecasts for next week are for temperatures in the highs of 75 and lows of 33 with some sunshine for the first part of the week then light rains or scattered showers for the weekend with possible snow showers Sunday and Monday. If you plan on fishing this weekend you might want to check for road conditions.

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