The salmon are spawning and people lined up along the Knights Ferry bridge to watch the activity in the Stanislaus River below while tent booths lined the shores of the riverbank and the parking area for the 2011 Salmon Festival on Saturday, Nov. 5.
The weather fluctuated between cool and chilly in the foothills but many families were in attendance at the free event. Event chairperson J.D. Wikert, a fisheries biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, reported that they had about 30 booths at the event that’s been in planning for about a year.
“The goal of the event is outreach and education focused on children,” Wikert said.
He added that the event is intended to draw families and have interactive booths for the children.
Fishbio, a company that monitors fish and wildlife populations, had an underwater camera stationed in the river about 30 feet from the shore that showed the activity of the spawning salmon up close and projected it live onto a large television monitor for visitors to watch.
Fishbio fisheries technician Mike Phillips explained that during spawning the female salmon typically get white tails because they’ve been slapping the river gravel with them to form a nest for their eggs. He also said they’re typically able to tell the sex of the fish on the monitor by looking at the shape, or hook, of their mouths. On the Stanislaus, Fishbio does snorkel surveys, and has weirs and rotary screw traps to count migrating salmon and steelhead trout, both inbound adults and outbound juveniles.
Nicolas Clinkenbeard, 7, of Riverbank attended the Salmon Festival with his mom and little sister.
“It’s pretty fun…and I learn a lot,” Nicolas said about the event while he practiced fly fishing.
“We enjoy it,” added his mom Abigale Clinkenbeard, attending for the second year with her children. “I love the knowledge the kids get.”
Some of the activities at the event included identifying different types of real fish specimens at the California Department of Fish and Game booth, a fishing game involving a fishing pole with the line connected to a special box and a fish on a TV monitor at the California Department of Water Resources booth, fly fishing demonstrations from the Mother Lode Fly Fishing Club booth, identifying water bugs and other creatures under microscopes at the Great Valley Museum booth, and many others. Children and their families were able to learn about the salmon life cycle and salmon habitat, wildlife, fisheries, local agriculture, water safety, recreational activities on the river, and more from the various agencies and organizations that participated. Also at the event were live music, a pet adoption booth, face painting, and visitor center tours.
The Oakdale Lions Club cooked salmon on the grill, offering a lunch plate with a choice of the big silver fish served up grilled or batter-coated. Also on hand with tamer fare such as hotdogs for sale were other organizations including Orange Blossom 4-H Club.