The Sacramento River is home to the Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, also known as Chinook Salmon. These remarkable fish have a unique life history that allows them to adapt to the diverse environments of both freshwater streams and the ocean. As adults, they migrate upstream to freshwater streams to spawn, and as juveniles, they migrate downstream to the ocean to grow and mature. NOAA Fisheries has classified Chinook Salmon into six major groups, or Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs), based on their distinct characteristics.
Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal Chinook Salmon
The Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal Chinook Salmon ESU includes fall-run Chinook Salmon found in coastal streams from Oregon’s Cape Blanco to the Klamath River in California. Although there were concerns about their federal listing in 1999, it was ultimately determined that listing was “not warranted”.
California Coastal Chinook
The California Coastal Chinook Salmon ESU comprises all natural spawning populations of Chinook Salmon from rivers and streams between the Klamath River and the Russian River. Due to reduced population sizes compared to historical levels, the California Coastal Chinook Salmon was listed as threatened under the federal protection in 1999.
Upper Klamath – Trinity River Chinook Salmon
Within the Upper Klamath – Trinity River ESU, both fall and spring Chinook Salmon spawn and rear in the Trinity River and the Klamath River. While the Trinity River offers various spawning locations, access to the Klamath River was limited by Copco Dam constructed in 1917. Nevertheless, Chinook Salmon can still be found spawning in the mainstem Klamath River and several of its tributaries.
Central Valley Fall and Late-Fall-Run Chinook Salmon
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River system is home to four distinct runs of Chinook Salmon: fall-run, late-fall-run, spring-run, and winter-run. Fall-run Chinook Salmon migrate upstream as adults from July to December, while late-fall-run Chinook Salmon enter the rivers from mid-October to December. These two runs contribute significantly to commercial and recreational fisheries. Concerns about their population size and influence from hatcheries have led to their classification as a Species of Concern under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook Salmon
Spring-run Chinook Salmon, historically the most abundant race in the Central Valley, enter the Sacramento River from late March to September. They hold in cool water habitats during the summer and spawn in the fall from mid-August to early October. Unfortunately, due to hybridization with fall-run Chinook Salmon and the decline in non-hybridized populations, the Central Valley spring-run Chinook Salmon were listed as threatened under both state and federal endangered species acts in 1999.
Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Salmon
The Sacramento-San Joaquin River system also supports the Sacramento River winter-run Chinook Salmon. Adult winter-run Chinook Salmon enter the Sacramento River from December to early August and spawn in the upper mainstem Sacramento River from mid-April to August. These fish then migrate downstream from July to March and reach the Delta from September to June. Unfortunately, their population suffered a significant decline in the 1980s and is now classified as endangered under both state and federal protection.
Now that you know more about the different types of Chinook Salmon in the Sacramento River, why not try your luck at salmon fishing? Hook’d Up Bar and Grill, located in Sacramento, offers an excellent experience for fishing enthusiasts. Visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill to learn more and plan your next fishing adventure! Be sure to check local regulations and obtain the necessary permits.