Sunday March 30, 2014, Jenner CA.
Ken asks a cormorant question
Driving down to Jenner today along the river, I could see it was real muddy from the recent rains, chocolate even.
As I approached Jenner, I saw two kayaks going across the river that looked like Ray and his wife Elaine. I saw they stopped in the channel at the east end of Penny Island to wait for me, so I put my boat in the water and paddled across to were they were sitting in their boats.
There was some high type fog in the air and the wind was just picking up as I crossed the river. The water had muddied up since yesterday. Muddy water means it’s hard for birds and seals to catch fish. So today, there weren’t as many fish eating birds in the area. Less cormorants and almost no osprey in the air today.
After shooting the bull for awhile we decided to head on up stream, a lot because it was real windy down towards the river’s mouth area.
We slowly paddled up to eagle’s landing and continued on up to almost the highway one bridge, stopping along the way.
I think we made it up to dead deer gulch where we stopped for awhile and then turned back down stream.
We saw a little white spot across the river that looked like it might be a bald eagle, so I paddled across the river to check it out, but it flew away when I wasn’t looking, before I could tell.
Since I was right by Paddy’s rock I took a pic of the cormorants resting there. Note there are very few of them here today as the water is too muddy to do any good fishing. If you were to look real close, you’d see that goose is still on the rock that was hunkered down there yesterday. It’s just to the right of the cormorants, but real hard to see. Nesting maybe, or just a good place to take it easy?
A word about the cormorants
A reader of my blog, Ken asks this question.
I was wondering in years past, were there that many cormorants eating all the fish in the river and ponds, Or is it a population explosion caused by something as humans have done?
That’s a good question. I was aware of cormorants hunting and eating fish about ten years ago in the Monte Rio area. I had seen them flying around the river hunting and looking for fish schools to go after in the Northwood golf area. I had also seen them twice on one of their fish eating frenzies, where the osprey and great blue herons were hunting with them also.
But, I didn’t realize there were so many of them hunting in the river at this time or the timing of their comings and goings each year. I hadn’t yet kayaked down in the Jenner area yet. I kayaked Monte Rio for about five years before I made it down to Jenner.
It wasn’t until last year that it hit me of just how many cormorants were on the river and even more importantly, that they show up shortly after the fish and game or whoever, start releasing small fish into the river by the thousands.
To my knowledge, they start releasing small fish, they call smolt, into the river starting about February 1 and shortly after that, the cormorants show up. There are a bunch more releases after that, I think, but have no way of knowing exactly when.
Last year the cormorants stayed until some time in April, when we had a good rain storm that raised the river about five feet and flushed out the estuary of a lot of the small fish. At least that’s what I think happened, as the cormorants left the area after that.
This year, the cormorants came back again shortly after the Feb. fish release and have been here since.
Last year, when I realized there were a bunch of cormorants on the river, I did a conservative count of them one day as we paddled half way up the estuary. I counted over one thousand of them and I think there were more like 1500 of them, just on this part of the river.
I was surprised at this number. Now, I can’t say whether they are increasing or what for sure, but there are a lot of them.
They’ve been releasing these dumb hatchery fish for many years now and more than likely they have trained the cormorants to come back every year to get these easy pickings.
So, the answer to Kens question is, I don’t know, but I do know that most of the birds and animals that eat fish are coming back faster than the fish are coming back which I would think is not a good thing if one wants to see more fish in the river. And I also do not know how to strike a balance to this kind of thing in this day and age, nor do I think anyone else has a clue.
I do know that in the past, fishermen shot these fish eaters which helped keep them in balance, but that doesn’t happen near as much these days and most of these type critters are protected and are increasing in numbers a lot faster than the fish population.
Captain Cook and the Russians too
Actually, when the Russian’s came to this part of the country, just after 1800, they eliminated many of the birds and animals that ate fish, which should of caused a huge fish increase in the Pacific ocean, until we learned to fish too good and fished things out. Before the Russians, Captain Cook started doing the same thing and that was around 1776. This little unthought-of fact likely had a huge impact on fishing in the Pacific ocean. They were very good at what they did, so good at it, that they almost wiped out the sea otters in the ocean.
And as we settled the west, we continued to shot off most of the fish eaters for many years, until just recently.
That’s about what I know about the subject, so far.
Headed down to Penny Island for a look around
We headed on down the river to Penny Island.
After our walk, Ray and Elaine went on in for the day and I continued on down the north side of the island headed for the river’s mouth area, maybe.
The wind blowing from the ocean was a little on the chilly side, so I pulled into this slot on Penny Island to get out of the wind and thought about whether I wanted to go down to the river’s mouth or not?
After giving that some thought, I decided not to go down to the mouth area and headed on back in for the day.
I seemed to be tired out today, so I went on home and had a nap and that was my day.