Conservation | TROUT Magazine

Bringing fish back to Yellowjacket Creek

The Russian River is one of the most famous steelhead fisheries in California. It is also one of the highest priority watersheds for Coho salmon recovery in the Golden State.

For many years, TU has worked to support Coho recovery in the Russian River watershed. Our Redwood Empire Chapter has supported this effort through a combination of youth education, restoration, and monitoring projects (including a current study using PIT tag technology to monitor Coho utilization of floodplain habitat in the Laguna de Santa Rosa), while staff with TU’s California Water Project have worked to enhance dry season streamflows through the Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership and to improve fish passage through restoration projects on Russian River tributaries, which provide vital nursery habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead.

TU, working in partnership with Jackson Family Wines, just completed a high-priority project on Yellowjacket Creek, an important Russian River stream which flows on the Jackson family’s Kellogg Ranch in the heart of Knights Valley.

The Yellowjacket Creek project restored fish passage to almost two miles of high-quality spawning and rearing habitat above a concrete weir and spillway apron, which was a total barrier for migrating Coho salmon and steelhead. The upper reaches of Yellowjacket Creek are spring-fed, have cold water, and are perennial even during severe and successive drought years — perfect for juvenile fish.

The Yellowjacket Creek project area, after completion.

The project constructed a series of 33 boulder step pools and installed a new fish screen at the diversion structure.  This project was funded by Jackson Family Wines and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Restoration Grants Program. Other members of the project team included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Fisheries), FlowWest, and Parsons Walls.

The Yellowjacket Creek project completed its construction phase in October 2018. Steelhead have recently been observed spawning in Yellowjacket Creek—in the project area.

Katie Jackson, senior vice president of corporate and social responsibility at Jackspn Family Wines, said, “My parents envisioned a family-owned, multi-generation business. Managing our lands responsibly to ensure the ongoing viability of ecosystems is the foundation of how we farm and make wine. My hope is that my children will be able to watch once-endangered fish swim alongside our vineyards at the Kellogg Ranch.”

TU will continue to work closely with Jackson Family Wines, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor the performance of the Yellowjacket Creek project.