Salmon Spawning Season Begins on Feather River

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The fish ladder at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Feather River Hatchery in Oroville opened on September 19, heralding the start of the spawning season on the Feather River.

As the hatchery spawns spring-run Chinooks, anglers are experiencing increasing salmon success on the section of river open to fishing.

The hatchery spawns both spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon. The staff will take more than 3 million spring-run eggs and 12 million fall-run eggs over the next two months in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring, according to Penny Crenshaw at the hatchery.

The hatchery has trapped around 1,000 spring-run Chinooks and has taken 2.8 million eggs to date, according to a preliminary estimate. They will begin spawning the fall-run Chinooks around October 10.

“Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, 100 percent of the spring-run stock and 25 percent of the fall-run stock will be adipose fin clipped and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release,” according to Crenshaw. “CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart the survival, catch and return rates of the fish.”

Visitors can observe the salmon through the viewing windows and from the observation deck located at the base of the fish barrier dam. At the main side of the hatchery, visitors can observe CDFW technicians performing the spawning process. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at the Feather River Hatchery, please call (530) 538-2222. For information about hatchery tours, please call (530) 534-2306.

“There are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort,” according to the CDFW. “Those hatcheries, along with federally run hatcheries, will be responsible for the release of 40 million juvenile salmon into California waters this season. These massive spawning efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.”

For more information about California’s fish hatcheries, please visit

Salmon fishing on the Feather River has definitely improved as increasing numbers of fall-run Chinooks move into the system.

Manuel Saldana Jr. of MSJ Guide Service reported catching Chinook salmon on every one of his most recent fishing trips on the Feather River. “

“We’re averaging 2 to 3 fish per trip,” said Saldana. “We’re back bouncing with eggs and using Brad’s Killer Fish as well. We’re fishing from the outlet to the Yuba City boat ramp. Today the anglers hooked three fish and landed two fish weighing 9 and 22 pounds.”

Salmon fishing on the Feather River has been “really good” some days and not so good on others, reported Bob Boucke of Johnson’s Bait and Tackle in Yuba City.

“We’ve caught anywhere from 1 to 4 fish on recent trips while trolling with Blue Fox spinners in my boat in the Boyd’s Pump area,” said Boucke. “On only one trip did we get skunked. The fish have ranged in size from 16 to 28 pounds.”

“Yesterday guide Chris Spades reported putting three Chinooks in the 10 to 28 lb. range in the boat,” said Boucke. “He’s been back trolling with Brad’s Killer Fish above the Yuba City boat ramp. On the day before, his clients landed 8 salmon.”

A few steelhead up to 5 pounds are hitting nightcrawlers and salmon roe in the low flow area, Boucke reported.

Combined releases to the Feather River below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet are now 4,000 cfs.

Meanwhile, salmon anglers, Tribal leaders, family farmers, Delta residents, environmentalists and other public trust advocates are currently engaged in a big campaign to stop Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels plan. The project is based on the absurd premise that diverting more water out of the Sacramento River before it flows into the Delta would somehow “restore” its fish populations and ecosystems.

Tunnels opponents say the construction of the two 35-mile long tunnels under the Delta would hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. The project would also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers, a fishery that for thousands of years has played an integral part in the culture, religion and food supply of the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes.