A record crowd of over 7,500 enjoyed the Lake Sonoma Steelhead Festival earlier this month at Lake Sonoma Visitor Center and Warm Springs-Don Clausen Fish Hatchery east of Healdsburg in the Russian River watershed.
The event celebrated the return of steelhead to the hatchery operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and featured displays, booths and activities put on by more than 60 different state and federal agencies, non-profit conservation groups and vendors.
“More than 2,000 adult steelhead have returned to the hatchery so far,” said CDFW Senior Hatchery Manager Brett Wilson. “We are predicting between 4,000 and 6,000 fish will return this year, which is above average.”
The festival promotes understanding of the critical role natural resource agencies and conservation partners play in the stewardship of the Russian River fisheries in a format which lets children experience trout fishing, see steelhead spawned and meet with a wide variety of conservation professionals from biologists to rangers. This year a new interactive exhibit showcased the major fisheries of the area, history of the dam, and hatchery practices put in place to maintain a broad gene pool and promote genetic diversity of fish stocks.
CDFW facilitated outreach on the steelhead population and life cycle and threats that face water users and facilities like quagga mussels. The CDFW mobile fish exhibit featured live steelhead. A program on joint hatchery partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to raise endangered coho salmon, the Coho Salmon Conservation Program, was also featured. One of the most popular experiences was the kids’ fishing event at the hatchery. Young anglers were thrilled at the chance to catch one of the steelhead trout raised in the hatchery.
Warm Springs-Don Clausen Fish Hatchery raises and releases 300,000 steelhead each year with 200,000 additional steelhead released from the satellite Coyote Facility, to support a recreational fishery in the Russian River. Adult steelhead spawned in the hatchery are returned to the lower portions of the river to migrate out to sea and return another year.
Warm Springs-Don Clausen Fish Hatchery is a mitigation hatchery mandated to compensate for the impact of the dam on the local steelhead population and conserve the local fishery.
The Lake Sonoma Steelhead Festival is hosted by the Friends of Lake Sonoma, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Sonoma County Water Agency and CDFW. For more information, please visit www.lakesonoma.org.