It has just been reported that in California’s Central Valley (the Sacramento, Feather, American, Yuba, Mokelumne, San Joaquin, Tuolumne, Stanislaus & Merced rivers and various tributaries), Chinook runs in 2007 totaled 90,000 fish — down from 270,000 in 2006, which was regarded as the worst season in recent memory. As recently as 2002, over 800,000 kings ascended Valley streams to spawn.
In addition, Central Valley jack counts were down around 2,000 fish last fall — an all-time low and well below the average of 40,000 per year.
With such an incredible drop-off in the fishery, the question begs: will we ever again see fish runs like the “Good ol’ Days” of just a few seasons ago when limits like the ones in the photo above were the norm?
Well, to answer that question, we must first determine what’s the hell’s going on here. The scary thing is, nobody really knows for sure. There are, as you’d expect, a million theories swirling around.
I personally believe it’s a combination of factors. Climate change is messing with the ocean. Sea birds from California to Washington State have been dying of starvation in record numbers due to the lack of krill on which they feed. Salmon, of course also feed heavily on krill and so do anchovies, herring, baby rockfish and sardines — all favorite food items of salmon.
You also have to look at water conditions within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Thanks to record high water exports from the Delta to Southern California in recent years, there’s been a huge collapse in the Delta’s food chain. Out-migrating juvenile salmon have litterally been starving to death as they try to make their way to the sea.
You probably have a few other factors to consider like the invasion of Humboldt Squid off California’s coast and even some natural run fluctuations. However, I think the two reasons mentioned above are really the culprits.
What can we do?
For starters, go to Water4Fish.org and start signing the petitions they have up and ready to go. Also, write letters (the website shows you how) to your legislators. The time is now!!