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BAY-DELTA FWO: Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office Plays a High Profile Role Monitoring Anadromous Fish Numbers in California
California-Nevada Offices , November 18, 2015
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Chad Praetorius, Samantha Adams and Bill Poytress of the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office, check the contents of one of the traps.
Chad Praetorius, Samantha Adams and Bill Poytress of the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office, check the contents of one of the traps. - Photo Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS photo
A rotary screw trap at the base of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam used to sample fish in the Juvenile Anadromous Fish Monitoring Project on the Sacramento River.
A rotary screw trap at the base of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam used to sample fish in the Juvenile Anadromous Fish Monitoring Project on the Sacramento River. - Photo Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS photo
USFWS staff from the Red Bluff FWO on the Nov. 6 survey: Clockwise; Project Leader Jim Smith, Chad Praetorius, Bill Poytress and Samantha Adams.
USFWS staff from the Red Bluff FWO on the Nov. 6 survey: Clockwise; Project Leader Jim Smith, Chad Praetorius, Bill Poytress and Samantha Adams. - Photo Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS
The four rotary screw traps used in the daily Juvenile Anadromous Fish Monitoring Project on the Sacramento River at the base of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.
The four rotary screw traps used in the daily Juvenile Anadromous Fish Monitoring Project on the Sacramento River at the base of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam. - Photo Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS photo

By Steve Martarano

 

Every day – rain, or shine, and even holidays – the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office collects data on the Sacramento River that provides critical information on how well the state’s crucial anadromous, i.e. salmon, fishery is doing.

“OK, MAYBE on Christmas or Thanksgiving we don’t make people come in,” said Red Bluff FWO Project Leader Jim Smith, who has been in the Red Bluff office since 1983 and the office’s head since 1990. “But the crew is out there essentially 365 days a year. It’s incredibly important work that requires a dedicated crew to work in all kinds of challenging environmental conditions including air temperatures that range from below freezing to 110-plus degrees .”

Utilizing a set of four rotary screw traps located at the base of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam on the Sacramento River, a crew of two or three biologists from the Red Bluff FWO methodically checks each trap on a daily basis, clearing out the space capsule-looking device of all fish and debris it collects, and then counting and eventually logging the information online.

The Juvenile Anadromous Fish Monitoring Project at Red Bluff has been around since 1994, sampling daily for juvenile salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. As the grim news regarding declining numbers of salmon continues to make headlines, especially winter-run, which have been listed as endangered since 1994, the work of the small Red Bluff office gains prominence.

The importance of the trap surveys, Smith says, is to develop an abundance estimate for juvenile fish passage at that key location. The information gathered is used, among other things, as a basis to estimate the number of winter run fish entering the Delta system, which is then utilized to set the salvage limits established in National Marine Fisheries Service’s biological opinion on state and federal water operations located near Tracy.

“It’s the best data around,” Smith said of the sampling efforts, which helps to develop an abundance estimate for juvenile fish passage at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam location. “It’s the first place on the Sacramento River where juvenile abundance estimates were developed, and it requires a lot of effort and a lot of work.”

The estimated numbers of fish passing through Red Bluff is based on the number actually caught in the four traps on a given day divided by estimated daily trap efficiencies using a model. The model that FWS has developed is based on flows and trap sampling effort.

Catch is expanded to give a daily estimate of fish passage, Smith said. For example, the 103 winter run Chinook salmon captured on a recent Friday in early November (the day the photos accompanying this story were taken), represents about 2,800 fish having passed through the Dam on that particular day. Those key numbers are then posted bi-weekly at <  http://www.fws.gov/redbluff/rbdd_biweekly_final.html >.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that fish – including endangered winter run Chinook salmon – are still being captured, the overall numbers are not good. Smith said that currently the estimated numbers of fish passing through the dam are some of the lowest since the program began.

“That would imply that for winter run, we’re seeing very low survival in the upper river this year,” Smith said.

Despite the disheartening news, prompted by four years of drought and high river temperatures, the crew from Red Bluff carries on, compiling data that is avidly anticipated by the rest of the state.

“The crew does a great job, sacrificing holidays, weekends, and nights, in order to do this, which can’t be done on a 9-5 schedule,” Smith said. ”None of this would happen without the staff we have, out there every day.”

-- FWS --

 

Steve Martarano is the public affairs officer for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office located in Sacramento, Calif.

 


Red Bluff Diversion Dam survey photos, November 6, 2016
https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/sets/72157661142849105/
Contact Info: Steve Martarano, 916-930-5643, steve_martarano@fws.gov



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