SIMoN
  Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

Carmel River Steelhead Count

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Dave Dettman
    Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD)
Start Date: January 01, 1990

In spite of the progress made on the Carmel River in the last 12 years, steelhead trout continue to be listed as a threatened species on the Carmel River and areas throughout California under the federal Endangered Species Act. District fishery programs focus on maintaining a healthy environment for steelhead spawning and rearing. District staff coordinates with Cal-Am, the California Department of Fish and Game and NOAA Fisheries to control the amount of water released from reservoirs and pumped from wells so that adequate river flow is maintained for fish throughout most of the year.

The adult steelhead population continued to recover from the impacts of the 1987- 1991 drought. The Districtís automatic fish counter at San Clemente Dam recorded 642 fish between December 2001 and May 2002. The 2002 run was the fourth highest since the District began counting in 1991, but was below the peak of 861 in 1998. In 1992, following a four-year drought, only 15 fish were counted.

In October 2002 District staff surveyed the number of juvenile steelhead at ten stations below Los Padres Dam, including two new stations within the inundation zone of San Clemente Reservoir. Overall population density of juveniles was 76 percent higher than levels recorded in 2001, averaging 123 fish per one hundred feet of stream. These values are typical of well-stocked steelhead streams.

Summary to Date

The Sleepy Hollow Steelhead Rearing Facility includes a cooling tower for maintaining a safe water temperature in the rearing channel and holding tanks during the hot summer months. Monitoring data show that the cooling tower reduces daily maximums and daily mean water temperatures by five to eight degrees fahrenheit compared to conditions in the river. The facility is monitored 24 hours a day by a computer system that monitors the power supply and five pumps, and automatically alerts District staff to potential problems when the Facility is not staffed. The alarm system was upgraded in 2002 to measure water depth in the river pump gallery, water flow, temperature and pressure on the cooling tower side of the system. The system alerts staff if these measurements fall outside optimum range.

The rearing facility was out of service from March 2002 until August 2002 because the two river pumps were severely damaged by sand and fine silt abrasion in the pump housing. One pump was overhauled while the other was replaced. Therefore, no fish were held in the facility during the summer 2002 rearing season. District staff conducted 49 rescue operationsin calendar year 2002, capturing a total of 36,398 steelhead from drying reaches of the lower Carmel River. Of the total, 35,877 fish were released into viable habitats upstream of the Narrows (River Mile 9.6); and 521 fish (1.4% of total) died during rescue and transport operations. District staff released the 7,035 fish produced during the 2001 rearing season between November 2001 and March 18, 2002 when the facility was shut down for repairs to the pumps. Of the 7,035 fish released, 6,812 were young-of-the-year from the rearing channel and 223 fish were released from the rearing tanks.

The survival rate of the young improved with the addition of a fish screen to prevent the larger fish from entering the rearing channel. The District completed modifications to the Carmel River channel and the Old Carmel Dam to improve conditions for upstream fish migration with federal and state grant funds. The District received $35,548 in 2000 from the California Coastal Salmon Recovery Program for three projects designed to improve conditions for Carmel River steelhead. These projects include modifying the Carmel River channel at four locations; improving the Rancho San Clemente Pond outlet works; and removing gravel from the San Clemente Reservoir and injecting it below San Clemente Dam to improve the spawning habitat. The remaining projects will be completed in March 2003.

Monitoring Trends

  • The Carmel River steelhead trout population continued to increase in 2002. In spite of the progress made on the Carmel River in the last 12 years, steelhead trout continue to be listed as a threatened species on the Carmel River and areas throughout California under the federal Endangered Species Act.
  • The adult steelhead population continued to recover from the impacts of the 1987- 1991 drought. The Districtís automatic fish counter at San Clemente Dam recorded 642 fish between December 2001 and May 2002. The 2002 run was the fourth highest since the District began counting in 1991, but was below the peak of 861 in 1998. In 1992, following a four-year drought, only 15 fish were counted.
  • Overall population density of juveniles was 76 percent higher than levels recorded in 2001, averaging 123 fish per one hundred feet of stream. These values are typical of well-stocked steelhead streams.

Study Parameters

  • Abundance
  • Disturbance
  • Habitat
  • Mortality
  • Habitat association
  • Migration/movement patterns
  • Stock assessment
  • Erosion

Study Methods

Sampling of steelhead using backpack electro-shocker and nets downstream to collect stunned fish.

Figures and Images

Stream flow (blue) and number of adult steelhead (black) from November 2002 to May 2003 taken at the San Clemente Reservoir Fish Ladder.

Annual average density of juvenile steelhead from 1973 to 2002 in the Carmel River.