Last weekend, members of the San Joaquin River Partnership including NRDC, Trout Unlimited and the Parkway Trust hosted a salmon festival at Lost Lake Park near Fresno, right below Friant Dam. Over 300 people of all ages and representing the diversity of the local community came out to learn about efforts to restore the San Joaquin River and celebrate the return of salmon. It was a beautiful fall day and attendees were treated to canoeing, fly fishing lessons, information booths and more.
When it seemed the day could not get any better, a truck transporting salmon from the lower river arrived. We had trapped the fish earlier in the day below the small dams that will soon be retrofitted to allow adults to come up on their own. The event host made an announcement that salmon were going to be released and the crowd made their way to the river’s edge. Kids lined the shore eager to see what would happen next. Biologists from the Department of Fish and Wildlife opened the hatch on the giant tank and netted the first fish - a huge male almost three feet long, bright red with a hooked jaw.
When the giant fish was lifted from the tank the crowd audibly gasped in amazement. Quickly, the fish was carried in a net and gently placed into the San Joaquin River. After a moment, with a flip of its tale, the fish moved off into the calm clear water and people began to clap and cheer as the salmon swam away.
The release of salmon into the river this year is part of the historic San Joaquin River Restoration Program whose goals are to restore a living river while improving the management of agricultural water supplies. The San Joaquin River Partnership supports restoration of a living river and a vibrant San Joaquin River Valley by promoting additional opportunities presented by the implementation of the Restoration Program to further benefit Valley residents and the people of California. While the release of salmon into the river this year represents the return of the historic Chinook salmon runs to the San Joaquin River, it also represents the return of the San Joaquin River as a place for people and families to fish, swim, canoe and enjoy.
Here is an exciting video of the salmon being released. And you can find more photos from the salmon festival in this Fresno Bee photo essay of the event.