Last week I wrote about the controversy in the angling/conservation community about the use of hatchery fish in the Klamath River following the removal of the lower 4 dams, currently slated to begin in January 2021. I asked a few more questions and heard some good and some bad news from my perspective.
As I previously wrote, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife plans to continue to plant hatchery fish into the Klamath River for 8 years following the removal of the dams. The good news is that they will cease planting steelhead and will make a 41% reduction in fall chinook production (there are no spring chinook at this hatchery). Coho production will remain constant.
Of course, many in the angling community would argue that production should cease immediately. Also concerning is that CDFW will bring the Fall Creek Hatchery out of mothballs for yearling production. The Fall Creek Hatchery is upriver from Iron Gate and, per CDFW, has not been used since 2004. Prior to dam construction Fall Creek was a spawning tributary for spring and fall chinook, coho, steelhead, and lamprey. At a minimum, using some of that water for hatchery operations means there is less water in the creek for natural reproduction. Why not keep all production at Iron Gate and let Fall Creek be a natural spawning area? Perhaps they are thinking that using Fall Creek water will imprint on the coho and fall chinook yearlings.
The Trinity Hatchery is where CDFW currently produces spring chinook for release into the Trinity River. The Trinity meets the Klamath near the Pacific Ocean and is the primary habitat for “Klamath River” spring chinook. The current plan is to take eggs from the Trinity Hatchery and use them to raise fish in the ODFW hatchery on Crooked Creek above Klamath Lake.
This plan is puzzling to me. The Trinity Hatchery is really far inland, almost to Redding, California. The Trinity watershed is big, and while it does eventually dump into the Klamath River, to say that these are Klamath River fish is a stretch. My guess is that they spend very little time in the Klamath before moving up the Trinity. So, while these are “in-basin” fish, the environment in the Trinity watershed is very different from the Klamath Basin above Klamath Lake. This does not add up in my mind.