Historically the second biggest salmon run of the Sacramento River's four distinct runs of chinook salmon, is barely hanging onto existence in todays troubling times with water management practices in the Sacramento Valley. As well as pis poor Federal Hatchery practices that seem as though they could give two shits about the existence of Northern California's chinook salmon. Prior to the building of Lake Shasta the Winter and Spring Run Chinook Salmon stocks numbered over 1,000,000 chinooks annually. Those numbers have dwindled their way down to around 10,000 returning chinooks at the present time. Roughly only one percent of the two biggest Sacramento River salmon runs exist at this current time. Both salmon runs are now currently considered Federally endangered. And still nothing has been done to sustain a healthy level of returning spring and winter run chinooks in our state. It is sad to say that with the instability and uncertainty of water flows down the Sacramento River these days (controlled by Department Of Water Resource) the survival and existence of what few salmon remain could be diminished to extinction at any time.
Butte Creek in Northern California is host to the largest congregation of naturally spawning Spring Run Chinook Salmon in California. Needless to say playing a huge part in the existence of Spring Run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River system. Deer, Mill, and Clear Creeks also sustain a minute amount of naturally spawning spring run chinook salmon. As well as the Sacramento River in downtown Redding, Ca. Water quality, including hydrological flows, water temperature, and contamination play a crucial role in the success of the spawning adult chinook salmon every year as they spawn in these various locations in the Sacramento River system. Recent years of severe drought in Northern California have stressed naturally spawning Spring Run Chinook Salmon to record low returning numbers of the species in the last two years. Butte Creek snorkel counts estimated 980+ Spring Run Chinook returned to spawn in 2017. A dramatic decline from the 2013 spawning season for the Spring Run Chinook Salmon. When over 15,000+ returning adult Spring Run Chinook Salmon returned to spawn in Butte Creek. A highly active and involved organization aiding in chinook salmon restoration and existence on the hugely important Butte Creek have done extensive work to ensure a sustained population of Spring Run Chinook Salmon will exist for future generation. Friends Of Butte Creek www.buttecreek.org/ records and documents all the chinook salmon activity that takes place annually on the creek. The returning number of Spring Run Chinook Salmon in Butte Creek last year totaling under a 1000 returning adults, is showing signs of a struggling salmon run. Most likely due to the naturally occurring drought that has stricken the North State for the last half dozen years. With the exception of last years overabundance of precipitation. Never the less the FBC (Friends Of Butte Creek) have identified and publicly asked for help in monitoring the health of the creek in its lower regions near its confluence with the Sacramento River. This area of Butte Creek deals with issues that are lethal to returning adult chinook salmon entering the creek in early spring. Issues with stagnant water, herbicide and pesticide levels lethal to salmonoids, and lethal water temperatures are among top concerns of the FBC. But very little has been done to address or fix these "lethal" issues concerning the endangered Spring Run Chinook Salmon of Butte Creek.
Despite warnings and calls to action to address contamination levels in lower Butte Creek near the confluence of the Sacramento River, little to nothing has been done. The outcome of toxic, lethal, and stagnant creek water reared it's ugly head on March 22, 2018. Ryan Tripp with Sacramento River fishing guide Mike Rasmussen of salmonsacriver.com observed what they counted to be 48 dead adult Spring Run Chinook Salmon. Which were floating in the currents and back eddies of Butte Creek at the Sacramento River on the West side of the control gates. Many other dead salmon were thought to have been kicked out of the swirl and lost down the Sacramento River as river currents carried them away. A devastating sight to see knowing there existence is already in great jeopardy. Time may tell the reason for their demise, as officials get the results from testing back determining the exact cause of death. But for now just the empty feeling of unnecessary loss to a already decimated species of Sacramento River Chinook Salmon.
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