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Stranded chinook salmon get some helping hands

July 1, 2009 | 11:22 am

An NOAA biologist releases one of the Butte Creek spring-run chinook salmon with an implanted radio tracking device.

Thanks to a team effort, chinook salmon stranded in warming waters during their spring-run spawning migration were able to continue their journey Tuesday.

The fish were trapped in Butte Creek near Chico in a pool of water that was warmer than the surrounding area. This thermal block caused the salmon to dive to the bottom in search of cooler waters and halted their forward movement.

Department of Fish and Game and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration staffers stepped in, successfully capturing and transporting 26 salmon upriver. 

"Without human intervention to capture and move these fish, we would have seen a high mortality rate,"  DFG fishery manager Joe Johnson said in a release.

Biologists also implanted the chinook with radio transmitters prior to release.

"The radio transmitters will enable us to track where the salmon go and determine what the results ultimately are for this type of rescue," said Johnson.

Chinook salmon are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Though changes in habitat and water management have helped the Central Valley chinook population rebound somewhat, recent surveys indicate a lower number returning to the region than in years past. Because of this, salmon fishing is off-limits in most of the area.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: An NOAA biologist releases one of the Butte Creek spring-run chinook salmon with an implanted radio tracking device. Credit: Harry Morse / DFG

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