Salmon and Steelhead

California Sea Grant is working to help recover endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead populations under the leadership of Extension Specialist Mariska Obedzinski. For nearly two decades, we monitored these keystone fish and environmental conditions in Russian River streams to document status, trends, habitat suitability and limiting factors.

While much of our former field monitoring has transitioned to Sonoma Water, we continue to work closely with partners to support salmonid recovery efforts in the Russian River basin and throughout coastal California.



Fish Monitoring

Our research has been funded by the US Army Corps of EngineersWildlife Conservation BoardNational Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA Fisheries and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, with contributions from Sonoma Water and other partners. This work is made possible through the gracious support of hundreds of private landowners throughout the Russian River watershed.

Adult Returns

The number of returning adults is an important metric in coho salmon recovery, as these fish are the basis of future wild coho populations. NOAA Fisheries has established a recovery target of 10,100 adult coho salmon returning each winter to the Russian River basin.

LEARN MORE about adult returns


Summer snorkel surveys are used to document the presence and spatial distribution of juvenile salmonids in lower Russian River streams, and to determine relative abundance by counting the number of wild coho salmon and steelhead young-of-year (yoy) observed.

LEARN MORE about Juvenile monitoring

Outmigrating Smolts

Traps are operated on key tributaries each spring to monitor coho smolts (one-year old fish) as they make their way downstream to the ocean. Data are used to ascertain migratory patterns in relation to environmental conditions, and to quantify smolt abundance, overwinter survival and growth. 

LEARN MORE about smolt monitoring

pit-tag technology

Biologists use tiny devices called Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT) tags to identify and track individual coho salmon at all life stages, and generate population estimates, using channel-spanning antennas on streams throughout the lower Russian River watershed.

LEARN MORE about PIT-Tag monitoring

Reports & Publications

Outcomes from our research have been documented in a number of reports, articles and updates. See the links below to view or download files.

Story Maps & Documents

2022 Community Update

Russian River watershed INFORMATION

Historically, the Russian River watershed had the largest population of coho salmon in the Central California Coast Ecologically Significant Unit and was a world-renowned steelhead fishing destination. Today, it is home to three species of threatened and endangered salmonids and a diversity of native fish and other organisms.

russian river learning center

Russian River Videos

russian river webinar

California Sea Grant Webinar: Salmon and Steelhead in the Russian River Watershed

A school of ~40 adult salmon schooling in Russian River tributary
A pair of adult coho salmon spawning in Russian River tributary
Watershed Stewards Program: Restore Mark West Creek

Our Partners

We work with a broad network of collaborative partners to support salmon and steelhead recovery and associated ecosystem restoration efforts throughout coastal California. Our partners include agency personnel, academic researchers, public, private and NGO resource professionals, and hundreds of community members throughout the Russian River watershed.

our partners

Follow Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program

Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program