California Monitoring Plan for Salmon and Steelhead

California Monitoring Plan (CMP)

The California (Coastal) Monitoring Plan is designed to inform salmon and steelhead recovery, conservation, and management activities. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries are leading the implementation of this Plan in watersheds from California’s border with Mexico north to the Oregon border, including San Francisco and Humboldt Bay tributaries.

Current activities include:

  • Developing a population monitoring database
  • Establishing the sampling framework
  • Research and refinement of field methods
  • Implementation of salmonid monitoring projects
  • Communicating with stakeholders and building partnerships

In May 2021 CDFW and NOAA Fisheries led a five session virtual workshop to explore lessons learned from CMP implementation and identify next steps and updates to methodologies to make the program more effective, efficient, flexible, and adaptive. This culminated in the publishing of a Workshop Proceedings California Monitoring Program Workshop Series (PDF) document.

CMP Science Team

The CMP Science Team was established to provide science support for the monitoring plan. The Science Team is composed of CDFW and NOAA staff and works with many partner agencies around the state to report and share data, as well as to coordinate trainings and workshops to facilitate consistency in monitoring protocols. The objectives of the Science Team include:

  • To ensure that all aspects of the plan are implemented in an efficient, effective, scientifically based, and technical sound manner, and
  • To provide scientific reports, protocols, plans, and other documents, as necessary, to successfully implement all aspects of the plan.

Guidance Documents

Two adult steelhead spawning in the river
Adult Steelhead in the Big Sur River (CDFW photo by Matt Michie)

CMP Coordinator
CDFW Fisheries Branch


Shasta and Scott River Coho Salmon Escapement Surveys

The Shasta and Scott River Coho Salmon escapement surveys seek to collect and report accurate adult Coho Salmon abundance estimates from the Scott and Shasta Rivers for use in ESA recovery planning and to help focus restoration efforts. Specifically, the project operates adult fish counting facilities and conduct spawning ground surveys in the Shasta and Scott Rivers during the Coho Salmon migration. The Department is currently monitoring both adult and juvenile Coho Salmon in the Shasta and Scott River Watersheds. A video weir is utilized to count returning adult Coho Salmon during the fall, and an outmigrant trap is operated from late winter through early summer to estimate numbers of out-migrant juveniles. The pairing of adult and juvenile data allows for estimation of out-of-basin and in-river production. The out-of-basin production ratios are integral in providing context to adult abundance, and the in-river production ratios are critical for evaluating changes to freshwater conditions for salmon and steelhead. Additionally, this project will have the opportunity to evaluate changes to the salmonid populations in these two basins before and after the “Klamath Dam Removal” project occurs.

Shasta and Scott River Salmonid Outmigrant Monitoring

The Shasta and Scott River Salmonid Outmigrant Monitoring project determines the abundance and timing of all age classes of juvenile salmonids emigrating from the Scott and Shasta Rivers between late January and early July; and investigates the relationships between in-stream conditions and emigration patterns of juvenile salmonids.

Meanders on the Shatsa River showing the area the river moving and shape of the river.
Meanders on the Shasta River (CDFW photo)

Freshwater Creek Life Cycle Monitoring Station

This project builds on the 20-year monitoring data set of Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon and steelhead adult and smolt population abundances and life stage survival rates at the Freshwater Creek Lifecycle Monitoring Station, in Humboldt County. The monitoring elements in this project provide baseline data to meet the needs of viability assessment and recovery criteria defined by CDFW and NOAA Fisheries.

South Fork Eel River and Main Stem Lower Eel River CMP

The South Fork Eel River CMP project monitors adult Coho Salmon abundance and spatial structure of salmonids in the South Fork Eel River and Lower Eel - Van Duzen River. The data collected from this effort allows CDFW to evaluate both trends in population abundance as well as the population response to recovery projects implemented to treat limiting factors. The Main Stem Eel River CMP project is needed to address the lack of monitoring data and a comprehensive monitoring plan for California Coastal (CC) Chinook Salmon. The project will provide an Eel River CC Chinook escapement estimate to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC), and this escapement will be directly used to evaluate ocean Chinook Salmon recreational fishery harvest management. Both these efforts use a number of different methods including spawning ground surveys (carcass and redd counts), snorkel surveys, and DIDSON Sonar to identify and count adult and juvenile salmonids.

Coastal Mendocino County Salmonid Monitoring Project

The purpose of this project is to implement the California Coastal Monitoring Plan (CMP) in Coastal Mendocino County to obtain population estimates and trends in abundance of listed salmonids to inform recovery. Objectives include (1) completion of regional spawning ground surveys to estimate redd and adult abundance of coastal Mendocino salmonid populations (2) operation the life cycle monitoring (LCM) stations to obtain annual measures of adult, redd, and smolt abundance to establish spawner to redd ratios used to calibrate regional spawning surveys and evaluate freshwater and marine conditions on observed trends in abundance. The Coastal Mendocino project works in many watersheds across Mendocino County extending from Usal Creek in the north to Schooner Gulch in the south and covers six independent and eight dependent populations within two diversity stratums for CCC Coho Salmon. The LCM stations this projects operates on the Noyo River and centrally located within the sample frame. 

Floy tagging steelhead on Pudding Creek
A steelhead caught and floy tagged before being released on Pudding Creek. (CDFW Photo)

Russian River Monitoring Project

The Russian River Monitoring Project conducts spawning ground surveys and operates life cycle monitoring (LCM) stations to generate estimates of adult abundance and juvenile occupancy for Coho Salmon and steelhead. Sonoma Water and California Sea Grant are responsible for conducting these surveys and analyzing the data. The LCM stations are operated in Mill, Green Valley, Dutch Bill and Willow Creeks. The spawner estimates generated through this project are vital metrics for tracking the recovery of the listed salmonids in the watershed. The data from this project also provide important information for the collaborative Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program, and habitat restoration taking place in the watershed.

Lagunitas Creek Monitoring Project

The Lagunitas Creek Monitoring Project monitors Coho Salmon and steelhead trout in the Lagunitas Creek watershed through the use of spawning ground surveys, a life cycle monitoring station on Olema Creek, summer juvenile Coho Salmon surveys, and a DIDSON sonar camera. The National Park Service, along with the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, perform this monitoring in the watershed. These methods are employed throughout mainstem Lagunitas Creek and major tributaries San Geronimo Creek, Olema Creek, and Devil's Gulch. This project contributes to one of the longest time series of spawning data for Coho Salmon on one of the most resilient populations of CCC Coho Salmon towards the southern extent of the specie's range.

Juvenile coho salmon sampled in Lagunitas Creek, fish fits in the hand of sampler and is marked by orangeish fins with dark bars on the body
Juvenile Coho Salmon sampled in Lagunitas Creek (CDFW Photo by Chester Lindley)

Scott Creek Life Cycle Monitoring Station

The purpose of this project is to generate robust estimates of key viable salmonid population parameters through comprehensive salmonid life cycle monitoring in Scott Creek. These parameters include return rates, run timing, survivorship, and age of adult salmonids, and the outmigration timing, age, size, abundance, and freshwater survival of juvenile salmonids in the Scott Creek watershed. The University of California Santa Cruz operates the LCMS (in conjunction with NOAA Fisheries) to provide the data necessary for CDFW and NOAA Fisheries to assess the status and trend of Coho Salmon populations in the Santa Cruz Mountains Diversity Stratum and inform population supplementation and habitat recovery actions in the region.

Monterey County Steelhead Monitoring Project

The Big Sur River in Monterey County is a critical stream to South-Central California Coast steelhead and has been identified as a priority for monitoring by both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and National Marine Fisheries Service in their South-Central Recovery Action Plan. The objective of this study is to implement a long-term population monitoring plan for steelhead in the Big Sur River watershed. This includes determining and documenting end of anadromy locations within each of the steelhead bearing streams and tributaries to create a complete study sample frame. These study sample frames are used to help determine adult escapement during the winter migration season and to document juvenile steelhead spatial locations in the spring and fall. The focus species for this long-term study is steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Steelhead in this region of California is Federally listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This population was first listed in 1997 with updates to the listing in 2006 and 2014.

Bixby Bridge at the Big Sur River confluence
Bixby Bridge at the Big Sur River Confluence (CDFW photo by Matthew Michie)

The monitoring methods used to determine adult escapement estimates in the Big Sur River watershed include the use of a Dual-Frequency Identification Sonar camera (DIDSON) that records video-like images of migrating steelhead. In addition to the DIDSON camera, CDFW staff conduct spawning ground surveys to determine the total number of steelhead redds. CDFW staff also conduct snorkel surveys to study juvenile steelhead distribution throughout the watershed in the spring and fall. The Big Sur River and other Big Sur coast streams are one of the most data-poor areas of California regarding steelhead escapement estimates. This study will also use electrofishing techniques to determine the density and proportion of resident rainbow trout and steelhead trout. These methods will follow guidance outline in Fish Bulletin 182 for how to better capture steelhead data in the South Central Coast steelhead. Data collected by CDFW staff will be available to use for Coastal Steelhead management and for Federal and State status reports of South-Central Coast steelhead populations.

Ventura River Life Cycle Monitoring

The South Coast Region’s Southern California Steelhead Restoration and Recovery (SCSRR) project will continue the operation of a Life Cycle Monitoring (LCM) program on the Ventura River, which consists of a fixed counting station, pit tag arrays, spawner surveys and spatial distribution surveys. Use of the DIDSON allows us to census all ocean-run fish entering the creek during winter rain events (abundance and productivity). When paired with a DIDSON camera, a Passive Integrated Tag (PIT) array allows for the estimation of marine survival and quantification of smoltification (productivity).

Topanga Creek Life Cycle Monitoring

The South Coast Region’s Southern California Steelhead Restoration and Recovery (SCSRR) project will continue the operation of a Life Cycle Monitoring (LCM) program on Topanga Creek. The Topanga Creek LCM, the longest running southern steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) sampling program (2000 to present), includes the operation of a DIDSON unit and PIT tag array. Use of the DIDSON allows a census of ocean-run fish entering the creek during winter rain events (abundance and productivity). In addition to operating the DIDSON camera we propose to operate a Passive Integrated Tag (PIT) array which allows estimation of marine survival and smoltification (productivity).

Fisheries Branch
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605 |