Sockeye Salmon Makes A Wrong Turn

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(Rancho Cordova) A 4 lb. female sockeye salmon, an apparent fish from a Pacific Northwest river that made a wrong turn on its spawning journey, made an unlikely appearance at Nimbus Fish Hatchery on Thursday, September 8.

“Staff doing weir maintenance that day found the fish on the upstream side of the fish weir,” said Gary Novak, manager of the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. “The fish was weak and about to die.”

“Interestingly enough, we found a male sockeye salmon at the exact same spot on the weir last season,” said Novak.”

“Although it’s not uncommon for salmon to take the wrong fork on their journey back to their home stream to spawn, this fellow was WAY off course,” according to the Nimbus Hatchery Facebook Page. “Sockeye are occasionally spotted on the Klamath River but generally occur from the Columbia River in Oregon northward.”

It’s also possible that the fish could have been a kokanee from upstream reservoirs that made it downriver and made it out to sea.

These two fish are the first sockeyes reported in recent years at Nimbus Hatchery. Ten years ago a chum salmon was observed at the hatchery, according to Novak.

Pink salmon are very rarely caught on the American River; one angler weighed in two pinks that he caught the same day below Nimbus Dam about 25 years ago at Fran & Eddy’s Sports Den in Rancho Cordova.

Historically, some sockeye, as well as pink (humpback), coho and chum salmon, ran up the Sacramento, American and their tributaries, but nowhere in the numbers found on Pacific Northwest rivers. Dams, water export pumping facilities in the Delta and decades of habitat degradation have resulted in Chinook salmon and steelhead being the only two salmon species that are currently found in significant numbers in the Sacramento River system at this time.

Novak said the hatchery ladder is expected to open on November 1, as it normally does. Water temperatures at the facility at this time are quite cool for this time of year at only 65 degrees.

Salmon fishing remains slow in the river, since the main run hasn’t arrived yet. “I’m seeing some kings jumping near the weir in the mornings,” Novak added.

Meanwhile, the best place to see sockeye salmon in California is at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center in Lake Tahoe,where a landlocked strain of sockeye called kokanee swim up the creek each fall to spawn. The Fall Fish Festival, coming up Oct. 1-2 at Taylor Creek, is a great opportunity to see them and learn more.

Bureau of Reclamation water releases to the American River below Nimbus Dam are currently 1,500 cfs.

Daily information on expected flows in the American River can be found on the California Data Exchange Center website at or on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at