'Fat farm' for salmon gains success

For the second year, a Watershed Center-affiliated experiment in rearing salmon on a farmed Sacramento River floodplain has produced remarkable results.

Baby Chinook salmon grew about 30 percent faster than last year - an impressive average of 0.17 grams a day - in harvested rice fields that researchers flooded to mimic historical floodplains that served as salmon nurseries. Salmon that started at the same size and were released into the Sacramento River at the same time grew only about half as fast.

"For the second year, these fish have grown so fast that we're calling them our 'floodplain fatties,' " said Carson Jeffres, a field researcher with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. The Center and its collaborators in the the experiment -- California Trout and the California Department of Water Resources -- announced the preliminary results at an April 3 news media tour of the test fields in the Yolo Bypass, west of Sacramento.

As The Sacramento Bee's Matt Weiser reported, the results are significant because research has shown that bigger juvenile salmon survive better when they reach the ocean, and are more likely to return as spawning adults three years later.