Scientists in Santa Cruz who have been keeping track of steelhead trout have made a discovery that would seem to put the species in a good positon for a bright future.
Fishery experts have been monitoring the numbers of steelhead trout in the San Lorenzo River for decades and this year, the number of young fish has been been up. Though it's too early to see whether the number denotes a trend, it's definitely a good sign. Steelhead trout were listed as threatened in 1997.
Santa Cruz Water Resources Manager Chris Berry told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that during their latest outing, the team netted so many juvenile steelhead, called smolts, they couldn't count them all before release. During another two-day study this month, the experts netted almost 400 smolts.
Experts aren't sure why the numbers are up but they suspect last winter's heavier rainfall played a part because water levels in the rivers and creeks are higher. They also say reducing urban runoff and restoring natural fish habitats could have played a part in the increase.
Steelheads are born in in the upper area of the San Lorenzo River in the Santa Cruz Mountains and hold up in the river as they wait for the perfect time to follow its path to the Pacific Ocean. Adult steelheads can reach up to 55 pounds and live up to 11 years. Juvenile steelheads can spend up to seven years in freshwater before making their way to the ocean and will eventually return to freshwater to spawn.