Juvenile Salmon Observed on Cedar Creek

December 4, 2023 By: Spencer Durrant

coho salmon

Photo: NPS Climate Change Response/Flickr

Cedar Creek is a tributary to the South Fork of the Eel River, located in Mendocino County, California. The Eel has been in the news of late after a decision by California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE) to remove all dams on that river.

While those dams have yet to be removed, other dams along the Eel River corridor have been removed in recent years. One of those was the Cedar Creek Hatchery Dam, located on Cedar Creek. This dam was removed in 2022 by CalTrout and their partners, and its removal has opened up miles of cold water habitat to salmon and trout.

Now, CalTrout is reporting that juvenile coho salmon have been observed upstream of that dam removal site on Cedar Creek. Per a blog post from CalTrout, “CalTrout staff conducted a snorkel survey of Cedar Creek from its confluence with the South Fork Eel River, through the former dam site, and up to the Highway 101 crossing. During this survey, 34 juvenile coho salmon were observed, many of which were upstream of the former dam site. Juvenile steelhead and resident rainbow trout were also observed throughout the survey, both below and above the former dam site. 

“Previous surveys of Cedar Creek did not routinely detect coho salmon adults or juveniles, and none had been observed in the past 15 years. Although we cannot rule out the possibility that coho had been present during recent surveys, there would have been so few as to not be detectable.” 

While CalTrout is careful to not take too much credit for this, we should give them some of the credit that’s due here. The likelihood of juvenile salmon bypassing the hatchery dam is low, and just a bit more than a year after the dam’s removal, we’re seeing juvenile salmon utilize their new habitat. This is further evidence that if we can give salmon and steelhead back some of their habitat, these fish are more than capable of quickly re-establishing themselves.

You can read the rest of this story here.