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Educating anglers to protect spawning coho salmon

December 18, 2009 | 12:34 pm

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Coho salmon have returned to California's Russian River to spawn. Unfortunately, the endangered fish are often mistaken for hatchery steelhead trout by anglers -- both hatchery-released species are similar in size and have a clipped adipose fin -- and are kept when pulled from the water.

So in a joint effort to educate fishermen and protect returning coho, the state Department of Fish and Game and Trout Unlimited are erecting signs showing the difference in the fish and are also walking the riverbank talking to anglers.

"Because coho salmon can be easily mistaken for steelhead by a novice or uninformed angler, it's imperative that we make every effort to educate anglers about the differences," said Fish and Game Department senior hatchery supervisor Brett Wilson.

Coho were almost extinct in the river less than a decade ago. Thanks to the efforts of the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program, 92,000 coho fingerlings were returned to the river and its tributaries last year.

"Angler cooperation is vital to our efforts to replenish this diminishing species, which was once commonly found in these waters," Wilson said.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Angler Warren Bell stands next to a sign showing the difference in coho and steelhead. Credit: Harry Morse / California Department of Fish and Game