Let’s go fishin’: Quarter-million salmon pass through Santa Cruz
by Mike Baxter
Jun 14, 2012 | 1542 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Steve Rudzinski feeds juvenile Chinook in Santa Cruz Harbor. Courtesy photo.
Steve Rudzinski feeds juvenile Chinook in Santa Cruz Harbor. Courtesy photo.
A floating salmon net pen. Courtesy photo
A floating salmon net pen. Courtesy photo

It’s not often I can report that 240,000 salmon passed through the Santa Cruz Harbor.

That’s exactly what happened this spring, though, as the Monterey Bay Salmon & Trout Project helped acclimate and release those fish to boost local fish counts.

The project’s net pen receiver was reconstructed in early May by a group of volunteers, and the first load of juvenile Chinook was trucked to the Santa Cruz Harbor shortly after.

Each of four deliveries was 60,000 Chinook, and four separate transfers were completed last week. Each fish will have a clipped adipose fin and a coded wire tag, at a cost of $27,000 for the 240,000 fish.

The net pen was used to keep the fish safe from being eaten by marine mammals and birds while they adjust to the change from the fresh water of the Feather River to the salt water of Monterey Bay.

The fish are about 3 inches long when received. After spending a couple of days in transition, they start receiving a high-protein, vitamin-enriched salmon feed. Five or six days later, when the juvenile salmon appear ready for release, the team of volunteers tows the net pen to the entrance of the harbor during an outgoing tide and releases the fish during the evening hours. The cover of night and the outgoing tide help flush the young fish to the safety of the bay.

“I am very excited about the survival of these fish and continuing the program for years to come,” said Bob Anderson, the program coordinator and a board member for Monterey Bay Salmon & Trout Project.

Anderson said he was grateful to the volunteers this year who helped the fish. The Coastside Fishing Club in Pillar Point Harbor ran a collaborative program this spring introducing 180,000 juvenile Chinook to the waters of Half Moon Bay. The collaboration helps fishermen become more effective as a team in the effort to deliver more fish to the local fisheries. The Santa Cruz Harbor’s staff was also a key component to the success of Monterey Bay Salmon & Trout Project’s Chinook acclimation and release efforts.

“I donate my time because I enjoy helping the program and fish,” said volunteer Steve Rudzinski. “I feel like it is a greater good, as we bring more fish and money to the area.”

Rudzinski is a fisherman, too, and helps Monterey Bay Salmon & Trout Project with other projects and events.

I went down to the pen to take his picture, and as I watched him feed the fish, they boiled to the surface with vigor to feed and survive. I bid these small salmon well during their transition at sea.

- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at captmikebaxter@yahoo.com. He also hosts a fishing show on radio station KSCO (1080) from 8:06 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through the end of August.

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