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Heavy Rainfall in Northern California Confuses Fish

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Heavy Rainfall in Northern California Confuses Fish

Rain is good news to most fish in California, but rising water levels are confusing Chinook salmon.

After a long and severe drought, parts of California are now looking at the opposite end of the weather spectrum. Rough storms and heavy rain pummeled the northern part of the state yesterday, and the sudden appearance of large amounts of water is proving to be problematic for Chinook salmon. According to CBS San Francisco, the salmon are getting lost while traveling to their spawning grounds, often ending up in small irrigation canals or in ditches.

“We’ve rescued over five hundred fish,” said Colin Perdy, a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Perdy and her colleagues spent the last several days retrieving lost salmon from places such as a rice farm north of Sacramento. The fish had gotten there after taking a wrong turn in the Sacramento River Delta and ended up in a irrigation canal—a dead end if not for the efforts of Fish and Wildlife employees. It is not the first time that the agency had to transport lost salmon back to the right place, but the heavy rains are exacerbating the problem by tricking fish into thinking that normally shallow waterways are rivers. The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, as USA Today reported that as much as nine inches of rainfall is expected for the Sacramento area in the coming days.

Yet not all fish are facing problems from this much-needed rain. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has begun opening trout hatcheries to take advantage of colder winter temperatures and higher water levels.

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