Jeremy Hay, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
At the height of the sport fishery, in the 1950s, annual runs brought some 60,000 steelhead into the river, according to the Russian River Wild Steelhead Society.
Steelhead trout are tough, ocean- going fish and they seemed to affirm that in the way they came slamming through the trap door Saturday into a square elevator of water at the fish hatchery below Lake Sonoma.
“They’re strong and they’re very hardy,” said Danny Garcia, a state Fish and Wildlife technician supervising operations at the Don Clausen Hatchery at Warm Springs Dam.
“That’s probably why they got the name steelhead,” he said, smiling, “but don’t quote me on that.”
The fish, a favorite with anglers, were in the spotlight at the annual Lake Sonoma Steelhead Festival, put on by the Friends of Lake Sonoma.
“It’s about kids, education and the importance of freshwater,” said Richard Thomas, president of the nonprofit group.
He estimated that nearly 6,000 people would attend during the one-day event, a crowd up slightly over last year’s numbers.
“We want to draw attention to Lake Sonoma as a public facility and the hatchery is part of that — our goal is the preservation of steelhead in the Russian River,” Thomas said.
After living in the ocean for several years, the steelhead make their way up the river and into Dry Creek, where a fish ladder leads to the hatchery. The hatchery’s job to manage and boost runs of the once-bountiful fish, which is no longer able to reach spawning streams cut off by the dam.