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Coho numbers skyrocket in Siskiyou County, California

The Pioneer Press, at the very top of the State of California, grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.

State of Jefferson Rancher, Fort Jones, California
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 Vol. 32, No. 18 Page 16, column 1

Coho numbers skyrocket

-- Data on coho salmon shows that the numbers are increasing.

By Liz Bowen, editor, State of Jefferson Rancher, Fort Jones, California

SISKIYOU COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – Coho salmon returned to the Scott River in huge numbers, even surpassing the 1,495 adult coho counted at the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery this winter. The number is still preliminary, but the extensive count on the Scott River and its tributaries is 1,565 of the silvery salmon.

Every one in three years the coho are returning in higher and higher numbers. This was that year. Coho are also increasing in the Siskiyou County rivers during the other two years, but those numbers are lower.

For whatever reason, the coho liked the Scott River in December.

The Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD) conducts a broad program for counting the coho with many landowners providing access for fish counting personnel. This year, 959 Redds (egg nests) were counted and 578 dead fish were tallied in the preliminary report.

A final draft report will be released on Feb. 28, 2005 from the Siskiyou RCD, based in Etna, California. Daniel Quigley is the project coordinator for counting coho. She gave her preliminary report of coho numbers to the Klamath Basin Fisheries Task Force committee the first of February.

Scott River coho numbered 1,565

The illusive coho arrived to Scott Valley in huge numbers during the high waters from November and December rains. Their goal was to re-create and then die.

These deaths should not be alarming. This is the way nature planned it.

On a foggy Dec. 29, 2004, this reporter counted more than 37 dead coho in a 50-yard stretch of Patterson Creek. This creek is located beside Eller Lane, which is five miles from Etna. There were also seven live coho swimming in the deep pool. Other coho lying dead, on their sides, could be seen from the roadside.

Ranchers reported that the coho were providing meals for eagles.

These coho have lived out their life cycle. Most left the Siskiyou area as juveniles three years ago, entered the Klamath River, lived for nearly two years in the Pacific Ocean and returned to the mountain valleys to spawn; creating the next generation.

After spawning, the coho die a natural death unless a predator snags them first.

Farmers can not be blamed for the death of these coho.

There is no irrigation of fields or pastures in October, November or December to reduce water flows in streams. Irrigation occurs in warm, growing-season months.

Project coordinator, Quigley, was on the go starting Thanksgiving counting coho, even in the rain and snowstorms. She and a team of experts have traversed areas of the Scott River and many tributaries like the French Creek, Patterson Creek, Mill Creek and Shackleford Creek.

"There has been a lot of spawning activity," said Quigley back in January, who reiterated that "dying is normal" after salmon spawn.

The rains were timed well by nature this year, so that the coho were able to travel up the Scott River and in to the tributaries, where they prefer to spawn. They were found almost everywhere, according to Quigley, who thanked the many landowners that allowed access to their private property, so the surveys could be conducted.

Live coho were spotted in early November as far as Callahan at the southern end of the Scott Valley.

Shasta River coho numbered 369

The Shasta River also showed an increase in coho numbers.

Mark Pisano, a fish biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said that this year provided the best numbers so far. The coho count this year is much higher than the generation that returned three years ago. It was that generation, which produced this generation.

Again, the count is not final, but 369 adults were counted at the department’s weir near the mouth of the Shasta River in the canyon. Three years ago, the count was 291.

Iron Gate Hatchery numbered 1,495 coho

"The numbers were real good. Above average," said Kim Rushton, fish hatchery manager for the California Department of Fish and Game at the Iron Gate fish Hatchery on the Klamath River. The hatchery is located above the mouths of the Scott and Shasta Rivers.

Returning coho were spawned on Nov. 5, 2004 and again on Dec. 13, 2004 at the hatchery, which grows 75,000 juveniles that are released back into the Klamath River.

This year, 1,495 adult coho were counted at the hatchery.





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