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Sonoma County Gazette

Endangered coho being caught in the Russian River

Jan 10, 2018

Here's the situation: Locals have noticed an uptick in people catching salmon in the Russian River during early winter this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that more adult fish are returning. It’s more likely because they were confined to the mainstem of the river due to lower-than-average seasonal flow conditions. Coho salmon and steelhead spawn in tributaries to the Russian River, so in years where there is just enough rain to allow adult fish to enter the river, but not enough water to allow access to their spawning grounds, they may be forced to hold in the river for several weeks until streams become open to adult passage. In water years like this, it is more important than ever to be conscious of the impact of fishing on these protected species.

Concerned anglers will want to know that endangered cohoare particularly vulnerable during periods of low flow during their spawning season. Anglers could easily catch one without intending to and, potentially, face penalties associated with harming them. Knowing how to identify coho salmon, steelhead, and Chinook is a critical skill for anyone fishing in the Russian River.

Avoid penalties and help restore the Russian River salmon fishery. Any time you catch a fish that looks like a salmon or steelhead:

- Land the fish as quickly as possible

- Have a rubber net ready for safe landing

- Immediately check for an adipose fin. It will be intact on coho, wild steelhead, and Chinook.

In order to avoid injuring or killing these protected fish:

- Keep the fish in the water at all times – even if taking photos

- Carefully remove your barbless hook and release the fish as quickly as possible

For more information visit our website:
Or contact the California Sea Grant Extension team in Sonoma County:, Sarah Nossaman Pierce at 707-565-2119




Steelhead-Coho comparison


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