The Coastside Fishing Club will raise 420,000 Chinook salmon smolts from the Department of Fish and Game’s Feather River Fish Hatchery in its pen acclimation project for 10 to 12 days in the Pillar Point Harbor before release into the ocean.
This is the second year the program, a cooperative project between Coastside and the CDFW to improve recreational fisheries, will be in operation.
The first batch of 160,000 fish were delivered into the pens on April 15 to be acclimated for 10 days before being released. “The fish have been moved to the outer harbor and are doing great,” said Mark Gorelnik of the Coastside Fishing Club in Half Moon Bay.
“Last year we raised 180,000 fish total in the acclimation pen and this year we’re a little more ambitious,” he said.
They are hoping that the acclimation program will contribute to abundance and stability in the chinook salmon population. “We feel acclimating the fish to the saltwater environment will encourage more of the fish to survive in the wild,” he said. “We have seen no visible predation when they are released into the ocean.”
"Coastside is coordinating this project because we want to be part of the solution to the challenges that the salmon fishery faces," said Gorelnik. "One challenge is the death trap of the Delta that requires the trucking or barging of juvenile fish. We are hopeful that a release on the San Mateo Coastline will provide good survival rates to adulthood and good opportunities for recreational and commercial anglers."
Last year they bought the pen from a company in Washington. The dimensions of the interior pen are 48 feet by 24 feet, while the outside dimensions are 54 feet by 30 feet.
Club volunteers will periodically refill the automatic feeder purchased by Coastside, as they did last year; a video camera connected with shore allows them watch the operation.
The first fish were 40 to 45 to the pound when delivered by DFG personnel, but will grow rapidly in the pens and after they are released into the ocean.
Due to the massive loss of Central Valley chinook salmon in the Delta caused by the operation of huge export pumps that divert massive quantities of northern California water to corporate agribusiness and southern California, salmon advocates are working with the state to physically truck baby salmon around the Delta pumps for safe release, according to Gorelnik.
The salmon have a tiny coded wire implanted in their snouts, allowing DFG staff to verify later where the hatchery salmon are returning to spawn.
“My review of coded wire tags reveals that the 2.9 percent of salmon from the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project’s pen acclimated fish were harvested in the fishery, as opposed to only .9 percent of the smolts released by the DFW in San Pablo Bay,” said Gorelnik. “If we are as successful as the Santa Cruz operation, we should be able to contribute significant numbers of salmon to the sport and commercial fishery on the San Mateo Coast.”