Chinook salmon get help continuing their migration

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Feb 14, 2009
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Biologists netted 26 spring-run chinook salmon this week, saving them from a pool in a tributary of the Sacramento River where they trapped themselves in warm water.

The fish, on the federal threatened-species list, would not move from the Butte Creek pool where the water was significantly warmer than the rest of the stream, creating what the state Department of Fish and Game said was a "thermal block."

The warm water in the stream near Chico caused the migrating fish to seek cooler water at the bottom of the pool, a move that prevented them from moving on.

Experts from California Fish and Game, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and UC Davis netted the fish and implanted radio transmitters in them.

The fish then were loaded into a truck for release upstream in cooler water so they could continue their migration to spawn. The work was completed Wednesday.

The radio trackers are designed to help biologists monitor the rescued fish and determine their effect on the overall salmon population.

Since 1999, Butte Creek's spring-run chinook salmon has been listed as a threatened species. Central Valley salmon populations vary from year to year. Over the last 10 years, the Butte Creek run has averaged 6,000 fish.

Current surveys indicate a much lower salmon run is expected this year.

– Bill Lindelof

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