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    Steelhead Trout Smolt Survival in the Santa Clara and Santa Ynez River Estuaries

    Elise Kelley recently concluded her research on southern steelhead smolt survival on the Santa Clara and Santa Ynez river estuaries. The project was designed to address two high priority tasks in the California Department of Fish and Game’s Steelhead Restoration and Management Plan:

    1. assessing the steelhead population in southern California (Task number SC-30), and
    2. investigating and evaluating the suitability of the Santa Clara River estuary to support steelhead smolts (Task number SC-08).

    The spring 2008 study involved using accoustic and pit tags to assess smolt survival and residence time in estuaries; and surveying the Santa Clara and Santa Ynez River estuaries for water quality, cover availability, and the smolt prey base in order to assess the potential ability of the estuaries to support smolts.

    Based on her findings, the major potential problems for smolts are high turbidity, high water temperatures, insufficient cover to hide from predators, and resident populations of avian predators. She discusses a suite of recommended management actions to improve and assess the runs such as increasing water releases, further monitoring of smolt survival and estuary conditions in conjunction with management actions (adaptive management), and further research into the life-history of this important and critically endangered, but poorly understood fish.

    The report is available for download in the watershed knowledge base.

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