Last chance to see spawning Chinook salmon in Sacramento. What to look for at Nimbus hatchery

The final salmon egg taking of the season will be available for the public to view at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery next week, according to hatchery officials.

Egg-taking combines eggs from euthanized female fish with milt, which contains sperm, from male salmon. The fertilized eggs are then submerged in a water tank and later taken to a holding area in the hatchery to continue the fertilization process. The egg-taking is done to aid in the conservation of the species.

The process will be available for the public to view from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Dec. 11 and 14 at the hatchery located at 2001 Nimbus Road in Gold River.

Although late in the season, dozens of Chinook salmon can still be seen swimming up the fish ladder at the hatchery’s visitor center. After the conclusion of salmon spawning, the ladder will remain open through the winter for the migration of steelhead trout.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife workers harvest eggs from salmon at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Gold River in 2017. Visitors can watch the process this year from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Dec. 11 and 14 at the hatchery located at 2001 Nimbus Road in Gold River.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife workers harvest eggs from salmon at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Gold River in 2017. Visitors can watch the process this year from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Dec. 11 and 14 at the hatchery located at 2001 Nimbus Road in Gold River.

The opening of the fish ladder was delayed this year because of a “water management issue” upriver, officials said.

The water flowing down the American River is released from Folsom Lake through Folsom Dam.

Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the dam, said at the time the issue was low oxygen levels in the lower American River.

Levi Johnson, the federal agency’s Central Valley operations manager, said water was being released from Folsom Dam to mix with water flowing from the power generators that, when combined, better aerates the water and lowers the temperature.

Water also was being released from the Nimbus Dam to help boost oxygenation and improve conditions for the migrating salmon, he said.

Johnson said the dam operations do not interfere with the salmon.

Salmon selected for egg taking are in better supply this year because of the closure of recreational and commercial Chinook salmon fishing seasons along much of the West Coast.

Salmon that have been processed for their eggs wait to be shipped in 2018 at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Visitors can watch the process this year from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Dec. 11 and 14 at the hatchery located at 2001 Nimbus Road in Gold River.
Salmon that have been processed for their eggs wait to be shipped in 2018 at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Visitors can watch the process this year from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Dec. 11 and 14 at the hatchery located at 2001 Nimbus Road in Gold River.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife ended the season after biologists recorded low numbers of returning adult salmon to the state’s waterways this spring. Last year, 60,000 of an expected 196,000 adult fish returned to the Sacramento River to spawn, officials from the Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

State officials blame much of the population decline on yearslong drought conditions that have damaged salmon habitats across the western United States. Trade organizations such as the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations have also called into question the water policy decisions of state and federal leaders that they say have exacerbated the habitat loss.

In response, state fish hatcheries — including Nimbus — have raised 23 million fall-run Chinook salmon through egg-taking efforts. The fish were then released into coastal bays to improve adult populations for future seasons.

Ocean and in-river fishing seasons will be re-evaluated in 2024, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.