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What is the outlook for our salmon?

By John McManus, GGSA
12/02/15 -- Strange things are happening and dark clouds are hovering over the future of salmon. The effects of four years of drought and ongoing poor water management are catching up with our salmon runs and the damage is becoming clear. Sport fishermen had a poor 2015 season and many commercial fishermen were forced to fish in Oregon or beyond to stay afloat this past year.

Salmon, courtesy of John McManus GGSA
Salmon, courtesy of John McManus GGSA

As of now we don't know if we'll get enough fish back to the Central Valley to warrant a fishing season next year. We need a minimum of 122,000 adult fish! The small numbers trickling in from around the Central Valley are worrisome, to put it mildly. As of the end of November, less than 100 salmon carcasses had been counted on the American River. The number of salmon in Battle Creek, normally one of the biggest producers in the state, is a fraction of what it was at this time last year.

Perhaps most worrisome of all is the demise of federally protected winter run salmon. In spite of its protected status, 95 percent of the eggs laid in 2014 failed to hatch after water managers gave away the cold water needed to hatch them. Counts of juvenile fish in 2015 indicate their numbers are even lower, basically for the same reason. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says thing were even worse for the fall run salmon we fish on, with an estimated loss of up to 98 percent in 2014. It will be months before we know the toll for this year.

Everywhere we look, Central Valley salmon habitat has been lost or chewed up. Side channels of rivers and flood plains, needed by baby salmon to feed and safely grow, are largely gone. Spring runoff, desperately needed to carry baby salmon quickly downstream in a cloak of turbidity has been replaced by stagnant, clear, warm flows where predators thrive. Water diverted to the Delta pumps pulls baby salmon off course to their deaths like gravity at the edge of a black hole.

What is the good news? Salmon have a voice that is fighting back and that's the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA)!We are in the trenches fighting to keep salmon in our future as Californians.

GGSA succeeded in persuading hatchery managers to keep their fish alive by trucking them in 2014 and 2015.

GGSA succeeded in getting the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to experiment with holding fertilized salmon eggs in hatcheries as river conditions cool in the late fall and then plant them in the rivers in winter, when survival is much higher.

GGSA is on the cutting edge of what's needed to keep our salmon runs alive, especially in the face of withering drought conditions.

We can't continue our good work without you! The larger our membership, the louder our voice and the more we can do for salmon and the fishermen, harbors, and businesses that rely on them both recreationally and commercially. Together, we can keep salmon alive in our rivers and in our ocean. Please renew your tax-deductible membership today at For tax purposes, please note that our 501(c) organization's tax identification number is 27-4187163.

We thank you for your support and future generations will thank you too.

John McManus is Executive Director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association

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german brown trout in Modoc creek.
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green sturgeon
By Erin Loury, FISHBIO
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