Nearly 1 million juvenile Chinook salmon this week will get a truck ride from Red Bluff to San Pablo Bay as a detour around harmful Sacramento River conditions caused by drought.
The fish are the last of 12 million fall-run Chinook salmon produced this year at Coleman National Hatchery near Red Bluff. Normally, all those fish are released into Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento, to journey downstream to the Pacific Ocean on their own.
This year, because of low river flows and more risk from predators, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided for the first time to move most of the salmon in climate-controlled tanker trucks.
Starting March 24, about 2.5 million salmon were transported to Rio Vista and released into the Sacramento River. The following month, another 4 million salmon were released into San Pablo Bay at Mare Island. In between, when storms briefly improved river conditions, 4.5 million salmon were released into Battle Creek as usual.
The final 900,000 salmon will be trucked today and Thursday to San Pablo Bay near Rodeo, where they will be released after spending a few hours in floating net pens adjusting to new salinity and temperature conditions.
In total, about 62 percent of Coleman hatchery’s production will have been moved by truck this year. Officials normally prefer to release all the salmon at the hatchery, because it improves odds the fish will find their way back from the ocean in three to four years to spawn as adults.
The fall-run Chinook are not endangered, but the species supports California’s commercial and recreational salmon fisheries.
Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.