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 Coho return in high numbers

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

Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California
Wednesday, January 12, 2005 Vol. 32, No. 12 Page A1, column 1

In Siskiyou County at the top of the State of California, coho salmon have returned to spawn and die a natural death at the completion of the their life cycle. A large number, like this one, were found in the Scott River and its tribuary streams. In California, coho are listed with the federal and state Endangered Species Acts. 

Coho return with a bang – to die -- Data on coho salmon shows that the number is increasing.

By Liz Bowen, assistant editor, Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California

SISKIYOU COUNTY, CALIFORNIA - The count is not final, but coho salmon have returned to spawn in record numbers. Scott Valley streams have seen the most activity in this Northern California area. The final count will be explosive.

Scott River --

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.

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 near Etna. There were also seven live coho swimming in a deep pool. Other coho lying dead, on their sides, could be seen from the roadside. Ranchers report that the coho are providing meals for eagles.

These coho have lived out their life cycle. They 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.

Danielle Quigley, project coordinator for the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District, has been on the go since Thanksgiving counting coho. 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 is a variety of counting going on, according to Quigley. The live fish are counted and the carcass of each dead fish is counted. Also, the spawning nests of redds (eggs) in the gravel are counted.

"There has been a lot of spawning activity," said Quigley, who reiterates that "dying is normal" after the salmon spawn.

The rains were timed well by nature this year, so that the coho were able to travel up the Klamath River to the Scott River and into its tributaries, where they prefer to spawn. They have been found almost everywhere.

Quigley thanked the many landowners that allowed access to their private property, so the surveys could be conducted by the coho counting team.

The survey teams have been out everyday since Thanksgiving, even in the rain and snowstorms. Live coho were spotted in early November as far as Callahan at the far end of the 30-mile long mountain valley.

This week, Quigley said the coho run should be completed and then she will spend time compiling the numbers.

Shasta River north of Mt. Shasta

The Shasta River is also showing an increase in coho numbers.

Mark Pisano, a fish biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said that this year is showing 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 were counted at the department’s weir near the mouth of the Shasta River. Three years ago, the count was 291.

Iron Gate Hatchery on Klamath River

"The numbers are real good. Above average," said Kim Rushton, fish hatchery manager for the California Department of Fish and Game at Iron Gate Fish Hatchery on the Klamath River.

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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