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Klamath salmon return declines

Updated: Friday, December 3, 2004 2:07 PM PST

Siskiyou Daily News


Despite fewer fish coming back to hatchery, plenty of eggs collected

HORNBROOK - Fewer salmon returned to the Klamath River this fall, but hatchery workers still collected enough to raise thousands of baby fish for release into the wild next year.

According to Kim Rushton, manager of Iron Gate Hatchery near Hornbrook, the final tally on salmon returning to the hatchery to spawn in 2004 is down considerably from recent years.

The fall Chinook run ended around the middle of November and Rushton says this year's count was down at least one-third from 2003 numbers, but still high enough for the hatchery to meet its egg take requirements.



The runs into Bogus Creek and the Shasta River also showed a significant decline.

The adult Chinook take this year was 10,567 fish, as compared to 31,987 in 2003. The last four years have produced an unusually big run at Iron Gate, with a record-setting year in 2000 of over 71,000 fish. It has not been since the mid-1990s that the Chinook run at Iron Gate has been this low, Rushton said.

On the Rogue River, meanwhile, anglers enjoyed a healthy return of spring and fall Chinook. Unlike the Klamath River, the vast majority of Rogue River fall Chinook are native fish.

Coho are still coming through the Iron Gate trap at the rate of a few a day and Rushton says counts on coho are looking very promising. The adult coho run is running steady with last year at 1,275 taken thus far. "If you figure it over time, averages have been between 800 to 900, so actually we are a little higher than average for coho," Rushton said.

Rushton declined to comment on the reason for the low numbers of Chinook this year, however marine experts have pointed to two strains of parasites and a reduction in mountain snowpack feeding into the Klamath River as possible reasons.

Estimates are that as many as 80 percent of young Chinook are infested with parasites by the time they reach the ocean. Two separate strains of parasites are predominant in Klamath River salmon, weakening fish by making their kidneys less efficient and infecting the intestines.

Overall the chances of a salmon surviving from egg to spawning adult are generally very tiny, experts say.


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