Steelhead Numbers Reach Nearly 3000 at Nimbus on the American River

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Rancho Cordova– The Nimbus Fish Hatchery finished spawning steelhead this season on February 26 after large numbers of steelhead returned to the facility. The facility trapped a total of 2912 steelhead, including 258 half pounders and 2754 adults, according to Gary Novak, Nimbus Fish Hatchery manager.

“It was the second best year run over the past decade, only exceeded by the 3409 steelhead that we counted in 2018,” said Novak. “Near the end of February, we were starting to see a lot of two-year-olds, along with the 7 to 12 lb. fish.”

The hatchery staff took a total of 1,225,000 eggs this season to produce their goal of 430,000 eggs.

In contrast, the hatchery saw a record low run during the peak of the drought in 2015, just  The high flows during 2017 certainly helped get the fish down the river past predators and the Delta water pumping facilities.

“It’s a great run this year,” he noted. “It shows what a little water can do for the fishery.”

One other factor was that the hatchery was able to meet its goal of 430,000 smolts in 2017, unlike 2015, when the facility wasn’t able to meet its goal.

“But more than anything else, it was more environmental conditions, including good ocean conditions and the end of drought, that resulted in the big return,” he noted.

The water on the river was been very cold this winter. “The water in the hatchery is 46 degrees,” he said. “The water is actually warmer, 47 degrees, downriver at Watt Avenue.”

In between the storms, anglers have been catching some steelhead from shore below Nimbus Fish Hatchery and at Sailor Bar while throwing out Little Cleos and beads under bobbers, but landing the fish can be tough in the high flows. Nightcrawlers are also a good bet when the flows are high, since the steelhead are often feeding on worms and insects being swept into the river by storm inflows.

Reclamation increased the releases from 9,500 cfs to 25,000 cfs below Nimbus Dam on February 26 for “flood control operations,” said Peggy Manza, Reclamation spokesperson. Then the flows were reduced to 20,000 cfs on the following day.