Trinity River Boasts Largest Salmon Run in Decades

Salmon were caught, cleaned, and put on ice before being donated by local fisherman to the Salmon for Elders Pilot Program in Hoopa. Fisherman donated 227 fish that were then distributed to 113 elders within the Hoopa Valley. / Photo by Kristan Korns, Two Rivers Tribune

By KRISTAN KORNS

This year’s salmon run was the largest in several decades, and the allocation for the Hoopa Tribe alone was 32,000 adult fall Chinook.

Local fisherman Mikey McCovey said, “I’ve been on the river since I was 14 years old, and this year was about the best run.”

George Kautsky, deputy director of Hoopa Tribal Fisheries, said that the preliminary results for gill net monitoring show that approximately 2,647 adult spring Chinook, and 4,056 adult fall Chinook were caught.

In 2011, those numbers were 2,282 and 4,966, out of a much smaller allocation.

“This is the biggest allocation we’ve ever seen by a lot,” Kautsky said. “This is the kind of run we should see every year, once the river is restored.”

Not only were there lots of fish, but the fish were larger.

McCovey said, “The salmon were huge this year. In one night I caught eight 40-pound fish.”

The large run also helped with the success of the Salmon for Elders Pilot Program. Fresh Fish were dropped off by local fishermen at the Food Distribution warehouse downtown, and then delivered to tribal elders throughout the valley.

“I gave away a lot this year to the Salmon for Elders – 65 to be exact,” McCovey said. “I know they can’t catch them, so I donated them.”

Regina Chichizola, communications coordinator for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, said, “We learned a lot about how we can expand the program next year.”

“I believe the final numbers were 227 fish distributed to 113 elders,” Chichizola said, “It was very successful and the elders were very happy.”

Kautsky said that river restoration was still far from complete.

“We need to see many years of this to be sure that restoration is succeeding,” Kautsky said.

Fish stocks in other rivers along the coast are also high, including the Southern Columbia River and the Sacramento River.

Kautsky said, “This speaks more about favorable ocean conditions when they were out at sea in the summer or 2009.”

This year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began releasing additional flows of water from Trinity Lake in mid August, after intense pressure from the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Humboldt County.

The water was released in order to prevent the type of low and warm water conditions that led to the largest fish kill in US history in 2002, when many tens of thousands of salmon ended up dead on the river banks.

Kautsky said, “It takes an investment of 16 million a year to support this fishery and restore the river.”

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