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California DFW releases over 2 million chinook smolts into Klamath River

May 30, 2024  By Hatchery International staff

Juvenile Chinook salmon swim in a raceway at Iron Fish Gate Hatchery, Siskiyou County, Calif., before their relocation to the Fall Creek facility on July 7, 2021. (CDFW Photo/Travis VanZant)​

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has released over two million fall-run Chinook salmon smolts into the Klamath River.

On May 15, CDFW released about 1.3 million smolts below the Iron Gate Dam and another batch of 800,000 fish from the same location on May 22. The salmon smolts are about six months old and average just below 3 inches long. 

The salmon smolts were transported about 7 miles to the release point from CDFW’s new Fall Creek Fish Hatchery. 

“The smolt releases began earlier than scheduled due to warming temperatures in the Klamath Basin and C. Shasta disease concerns. C. Shasta – or Ceratonova shasta – is a naturally occurring freshwater parasite native to the Klamath River that can cause disease in young salmon. The fish are particularly susceptible in warmer water temperatures. Those concerns were alleviated this week, however, with a return of cooler temperatures to the Klamath Basin,” a press release from CDFW states.


Scientists placed coded-wire tags on the fish and clipped their adipose fins for easy identification and to provide hatchery managers with data about their life histories and the success of the release.

The Fall Creek Fish Hatchery, which replaces the 63-year-old Iron Gate Fish Hatchery on the Klamath River, is still undergoing construction and has already exceeded its production goal of 3.25 million salmon in its first year of operation.

Dam removal influenced the salmon release. The three remaining Klamath River dams targeted for removal – JC Boyle, Copco 1 and Iron Gate – are all being actively deconstructed. CDFW said their removal is happening quickly and could open up free fish passage and access to hundreds of miles of new spawning and rearing habitat to salmon returning from the ocean as early as this fall.

CDFW plans to release another 250,000 to 300,000 yearling fall-run Chinook salmon later in the year. If dam removal proceeds at its current pace, CDFW said it expects to release the fish directly from its Fall Creek Fish Hatchery into Fall Creek, which has been inaccessible to salmon due to its location behind the Iron Gate Dam.

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