This research and monitoring program brings a strong focus to the South Fork Eel River – a fundamentally important salmon stronghold that hosts all three North Coast listed salmonids – Chinook, coho, steelhead, and an important focal watershed of huge past and ongoing restoration investment. Our understanding of salmonid life history diversity and observations on the efficacy of past and ongoing restoration actions in the South Fork Eel River will be readily applicable to the upper mainstem Eel River within the context of Scott Dam and Cape Horn Dam removal, and to the Eel River basin and North Coast region in general. The South Fork Eel River provides an excellent laboratory for gaining a stronger technical understanding of salmon and steelhead recovery efforts.
One component of the program is to shift the primary salmonid monitoring approach from adult abundance to juvenile monitoring to assess growth and survival, spatial structure and diversity. That monitoring will then be linked to the underlying geology, land uses, effects of drought, and restoration treatments. The program will also expand our understanding of the South Fork Eel mainstem habitat availability and utilization by spring outmigrant and summer resident salmonids.
Another component of the program is to study pikeminnow abundance, spatial distribution, and seasonal migration patterns as a foundation for immediate suppression and eventual eradication efforts. Combining our understanding of the timing of juvenile salmonid downstream migration and pikeminnow upstream migration will help segregate migratory pikeminnow from summer mainstem rearing habitat to improve in-river juvenile survival.