Poor River Conditions Lead to Gill Rot in Chinook Salmon on Lower Klamath

Information from the Yurok Tribe Facebook page:

two salmon on their sides on river rock shore with round ulcer-like markings on their side.

[Photo by Jamie Holt/Yurok Fisheries Department]

Over the weekend, the Yurok Tribe’s Fisheries Department received reports of dead and dying adult Chinook salmon on the Lower Klamath River. The Department immediately mobilized monitoring crews, which observed approximately 35 dead adult salmon on a 40-mile river stretch from Blakes Riffle to Weitchpec.
According to the Fisheries Department’s preliminary analysis, the pathogen Flavobacterium columnare is the primary cause of fish mortality. Known locally as Columnaris or Gill Rot, the pathogenic bacteria rots fish’s gills until suffocation. This disease can also cause lesions on the exterior of salmon. (See photo)
the gills of a dead fish

[Photo by Jason Hartwick/Swiftwater Films]

“The number of dead fish is alarming but not surprising given the poor river conditions,” said Yurok Fisheries Department Director Barry McCovey Jr. “We are keeping a close eye on the river and will continue to monitor for disease and deceased fish until the conclusion of the fall run. We will be working closely with the Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes and our federal and state partners to assess fish health and to strategize on any necessary response.”
a dead salmon floating in the Klamath river

[Photo by Jason Hartwick/Swiftwater Films]

The current quantity of dead fish does not yet constitute a major fish kill event. The Tribe’s team of fisheries experts expect more fish to die, but it is too early to tell if there will be a catastrophic disease outbreak.
Yurok Fisheries Department biologists have also encountered numerous salmon with minor Ichthyophthirius multifiliis or Ich infections. At present, the infections are not severe enough to kill these fish. Ich is the primary pathogen responsible for killing more than 60,000 adult salmon on the Klamath in September of 2002. The 20th anniversary of the historic fish kill is in less than a month.
underwater shot of a salmon with round spots on its side

[Photo by Shane Anderson/Swiftwater Films]

This year’s fall run of salmon arrived early to an extremely warm and low-flowing river, which caused hundreds of fish to congregate at creek mouths where the water is cooler. When salmon stack up in this manner, disease can quickly transmit from one fish to the next. Compounding the problem, salmon are exponentially more susceptible to disease when water temperatures are high. The prognosis for the fish that amassed at the stream confluences is not good.
Earlier this month, the Yurok Fisheries Department’s monitoring crew observed salmon with sub-lethal levels of Columnaris and Ich. Concerned about a potential fish kill, the Yurok Tribe successfully advocated for additional water to be released from the Lewiston Reservoir to improve river conditions. On August 28, the additional flows arrived in the Lower Klamath River. The river rose to 2,800 cfs, where it will remain until September 21. The intent of the augmented flows is to cool the river, encourage salmon to disperse throughout the system and hopefully prevent a fish kill.
Water supplies are extraordinarily limited a result of the record drought. All summer, the Klamath was low and water temperatures reached as high was 80 degrees. Even with the infusion from Lewiston, the conditions are far from optimal. As the Klamath’s salmon run progresses up the river, we will provide regular updates on this page.
half in water, half above water shot of a floating dead salmon

[Photo by Shane Anderson/Swiftwater Films]

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Zipline
Guest
Zipline
28 days ago

The Klamath is a dying river and Salmon are soon to be permanently a thing of the past. Human led global warming is the cause. Emissions of CO2, Methane and other gases are at the highest levels ever with no sign that it is going anywhere but up. Are humans ready to make the DRASTIC changes in lifestyle that would mitigate these deadly changes? I know the answer to be NO. So enjoy the ride at full speed but don’t act surprised as we go off the cliff and the rocks get bigger and bigger in the windshield. CRASH.

Ed Voice
Guest
28 days ago
Reply to  Zipline

And the same will happen, unfortunately, on the main Eel, South Fork Eel, East Branch of the South Fork Eel, Sprowl Creek and Redwood Creek. Over allocation of water diversions, illegal water diversions, leaking water systems and private development the river cannot support. Like the Garberville Sanitary District on the South Fork Eel, where they waste 14 to 17 Million gallons of water per year thru their leaking pipes and storage tanks, with no end in sight… Death, taxes and drought and the Community of Southern Humboldt and their culture are too afraid to speak up and say anything to save their only water sources…

Dudley Fudpucker
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Dudley Fudpucker
28 days ago
Reply to  Zipline

B.S. on human caused global warming.

ABA
Guest
ABA
28 days ago

Evidence? Sources? Or just BS?

old guy
Guest
old guy
28 days ago
Reply to  Zipline

human caused c02 is estimated at 3-5% of total ocean, flora and fauna emissions of greenhouse gases, is it really the cause of “climate change”, and who said it was our ‘straw that’s breaking the camel’s back’ ? fatalism doesn’t help.

Zipline
Guest
Zipline
28 days ago
Reply to  old guy

Neither does realism.

Zipline
Guest
Zipline
28 days ago
Reply to  old guy

I’m not trying to be helpful.

Bozo
Guest
Bozo
28 days ago

If it rains… there will be fish. If it doesn’t rain… no fish.

Another year of drought, Trinity Lake will be dry. Shasta Lake will be dry.
That leaves no water for salmon… or rice in the valley.
Klamath will be a tepid warm, algae-filled stream.

Climate has been through swings like this before… but this short-term one is likely human caused. Excess human population… is about 4 billion. Humans didn’t listen… that was about 60 years ago.

Nature will say that there is going to be a massive human die-off over the next 100 years. Maybe war, maybe starvation, maybe no water, odder chance, maybe an asteroid collision, maybe a sun abnormality. I feel sorry for the young kids today.

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In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s book “The Population Bomb” warned that the number of people on earth was spiraling out of control. Paul Ehrlich: We were worried then about the problems of feeding human society when there was three and a half billion people on the planet.
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