Two teams of ten covered pools from below Fernbridge to the River Lodge and the second pools extending upstream to Weymouth Bluffs above the Van Duzen River. Only 75 adult Chinook salmon were counted, 18 small male “jack” Chinook, 54 adult steelhead and 294 “half-pounder” steelhead were counted. Counts likely substantially under-estimated the Chinook salmon numbers because of unexpected factors that confounded getting an accurate count.
The Eel River closes to catch-and-release angling on Oct. 1 unless the Eel River is flowing at 300 cubic feet per second, but prior to that date fishing can occur in very low flows. Although the Eel River was only flowing at 63 cfs at Scotia, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey gauge there, anglers were out in full force and even prevented the lower dive team from entering some pools where fish held. Other pools where fish were concentrated had no visibility due to algae dislodged by fishermen.
ERRP volunteer divers in Weymouth Pool could look for salmon and steelhead due to water clarity of up to 20 feet, while divers in lower pools had limited visibility.
The flow of the Eel and its tributaries is approximately half of the long-term averages for the date despite rainfall being in the range of normal. Thick mats of algae line the shore of the lower Eel River and potential toxic blue-green algae species can be intermixed. Divers in the Weymouth Pool below Howe Creek encountered floating algae mats and many contracted swimmer’s itch.
Thick mats of algae also cover the stream bottom and could create adverse conditions for salmon and steelhead, such as depressed dissolved oxygen.
Vandals broke into one of the ERRP vehicles off East Ferry Road and stole a gear bag containing project dive gear and masks and snorkels.
The Eel River Recovery Project is a volunteer based organization that wants to help collect better water quality and fisheries data on the Eel River and to support grassroots restoration. The condition of the lower Eel River would suggest that water conservation and nutrient pollution prevention are necessary to help it regain its health.
The next dive is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 13. Unless flow conditions change before then, only lower pools will be censused. Divers will again meet River Lodge at 8:30 a.m., but anyone interested in volunteering should check in before with ERRP volunteer coordinator Pat Higgins at (707) 223-7200. See www.eelriverrecovery.org for more information.
1. Upper dive team assembles to begin count in Weymouth Pool.
2. The margins of the pool at the convergence of the Van Duzen River and the Eel shown here had substantial build up of algae that could include toxic species.