Gill Net Fish Survey Pajaro River

By Chuck Hammerstad

In a previous trip with Herman Garcia of CHEER, Herman took me to view a place on the Pajaro River which was a large pool on the river.  On this trip to the Pajaro River, we were there to conduct a general assessment or inventory of what species were present in this area of the river at a time when steelhead were not present. 

On Sunday, August 7, fisheries biologist, Jerry Smith of SJSU and Joel Casegrande of National Marine Fisheries Service, conducted a fish survey of a large stillwater area off the Pajaro River at the Confluence of Carnadero/Uvas Creek south of Gilroy.   Herman Garcia, Bob Brem, Moki Smith and Dave Hamblin of CHEER along with the biologists and I, met at the McDonalds in Gilroy before driving the short distance to the Pajaro River.  After Herman gained permission to get access to the river from the adjacent farm owner’s property, we drove the farm road to the survey site. The CHEER volunteers assisted the biologist in launching Jerry’s pram and then loaded the pram with five gill nets and other gear.  Bob Brem launched his pram for use by the CHEER assistants and observers. 

Joel deployed the gill nets while Jerry rowed the pram.  The gill nets of varying mesh size were deployed across the slough and spaced about 30 yards apart moving in the downriver direction.  While the nets were being deployed, I took photos and videos while the CHEER group watched and explored the river in the two prams.  We observed that people had been fishing the slough and the river.

After the nets were in place and to give time for the gill nets to capture fish, Joel and Jerry got out the fish electro shocker to do electroshocking of Carnadero Creek just upstream from the confluence with the Pajaro River.  Joel performed the electroshocking while Jerry retrieved the stunned fish with a small net and then placed them in a partially submerged plastic basket pulled along behind Jerry.  They electroshocked about ¼ mile of the creek up to the confluence with Tar Creek, a very small tributary.  At varying times, Joel and Jerry would stop shocking to identify measure and tally the fish captured. The fish identified were Roach, Hitch, Sucker, Sculpin, Crayfish and four steelhead young-of-the-year.

We then returned to the vehicles to have lunch and prepared to retrieve the gill nets.  Now the fun was about to begin.  What fish would be in the nets?  The first net retrieved was a large mesh net which recovered some very large Carp, Sucker and Pike Minnow.  As the nets were pulled up, a surprise to many of us was the capture of several large Striped Bass.  After the final net was pulled Joel and Jerry had tallied 6 large Striped Bass.  The large number of species included Carp, Sucker, Pike Minnow, Black Crappie, Bluegill, wild Gold Fish and Striped Bass.  The gill net size was too small as to not capture some of the smaller species.  No Largemouth Bass were captured and may have avoided the nets as they mostly inhabit the shoreline areas.

It was a full day which provided considerable information for the biologists.  The CHEER group and I will be eager to learn what conclusions Joel and Jerry get from this survey.  Are the fish in this large pool area on the Pajaro River a major threat to the steelhead or is it a natural situation requiring no further actions?

To view the photos and videos go to the Picasa web album: Pajaro River Fish Survey (2), Aug 2011

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