FORTUNA >> The recent rains caused an increase in Eel River flow that not only allowed the Eel River channel to become completely wetted in its lower reaches near Fortuna, but also some early run fall Chinook salmon to move upstream out of the estuary. Flows at the U.S. Geologic Survey gauge at Scotia rose briefly to just under 220 cubic feet per (cfs) second, up from the previously extremely low flow of 47 cfs that prevented any migration. The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP), in cooperation with the Wiyot Tribe and the Humboldt Redwood Company, will once again lead dive counts involving professionals and volunteers to get an index of early-run Eel River fall Chinook abundance in October and November 2014.
The Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) will host dives in index pools from Dyerville to Scotia on the following Mondays (October 13 and 27, November 10). Since Chinook salmon are not currently widely distributed in the lower Eel River upstream of Scotia, the October 13 dive will not take place unless there is additional rain to move fish upstream. Divers will meet at Hoby’s Market in Scotia at 8:30 AM, but should check in prior with HRC fisheries biologist Julie Donnell at 764-4472.
This is the third year of the ERRP fall Chinook salmon monitoring project, which also uses information from volunteer fish watchers in other portions of the watershed to document large fish migrations and concentrations of spawning. The 2012-2013 Eel River fall Chinook population estimate was 20,000 to 50,000 fish basin wide and 14,900-25,000 in the 2013-2014 spawning year. The peak dive count in the Fortuna pools in 2012 was 5,054 Chinook salmon on October 27, but the highest count came on November 9, 2013 when 5,954 Chinook were sighted. Fish movement in 2014 is restricted by shallow riffles, so it will take more rain to bring in the main run. Other fish species are also observed during dives and there have been numerous sightings of steelhead, coho salmon, and green sturgeon.
Dives are funded in part by grants from Patagonia and the Salmon Restoration Association, but local business and individual contributions are welcome. Mail checks to Trees Foundation, P.O. Box 2202, Redway, CA 95564 with note on the check that says ERRP “Penny for a Salmon” fund. See www.eelriverrecovery.org for more information or call 223-7200 to volunteer.