A new piece of equipment is monitoring steelhead trout movement in Branciforte Creek, thanks to the help of San Lorenzo River champions Ken and Tina Slosberg! Ken and Tina are long-standing members of the Coastal Watershed Council community and current monthly donors. Over the past decade, Tina has also been a dedicated volunteer who has monitored water quality on Branciforte Creek, one of the San Lorenzo River’s major tributaries that runs right through the Slosbergs’ backyard! Now, the couple have stepped up to support scientific monitoring of salmon and trout migration in Branciforte (known affectionately as “B40”) Creek, which flows into the San Lorenzo River just upstream of the Soquel Avenue Bridge in downtown Santa Cruz (see map).

During scientific surveys to monitor fish in the San Lorenzo River estuary, juvenile salmon and trout are gently netted, weighed, and measured every summer. Many fish are also implanted with a tiny tracking device called a PIT tag (Passive Integrated Transponder), and these fish later migrate out to the ocean in the fall. Upon their return to the San Lorenzo River many winters later, PIT receiver antennas automatically record data from PIT-tagged fish as they migrate past the equipment enroute to their spawning grounds.

Fisheries biologists have long been curious about how many and which species of migrating fish may use B40 Creek as spawning and rearing habitat. The esteemed stream-protection organization CalTrout recently secured a grant through the Santa Cruz County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Commission (FWAC) to study how steelhead trout and coho salmon make use of Branciforte Creek. However, they ran into a problem: the landowners who CalTrout was partnering with to house critically important monitoring equipment on the creek backed out of the agreement, and CalTrout was left without a study site.

A PIT tag receiver monitors for passing fish in Branciforte Creek. Photo courtesy of Tina and Ken Slosberg

CWC’s Education Coordinator Sam Adelson, who sits on the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Commission, turned to the Slosbergs with a big ask. After hashing out some details with William Ware and his CalTrout team, everyone involved is thrilled to announce that a study site has officially been secured on Tina and Ken Slosberg’s property! A floating PIT-tag antenna and other monitoring equipment were successfully installed and activated as of March 13, 2024.

“We’ve lived on B-40 Creek for 40 years and are thrilled to now have some data on the fish passage,” Tina said. “We’re looking forward to knowing more and happy to be part of that research.”

The equipment will be checked and data uploaded every two weeks to help CalTrout analyze trends in the timing of tagged fish movement, and whether the fish are swimming upstream or downstream. This data will be used to inform and guide watershed restoration projects and provide a better understanding of habitat use and salmonid migration on Branciforte Creek to help protect and enhance these incredible native fish.

A huge thank you to Tina and Ken for stepping up in a big way to support a healthy, resilient, and diverse San Lorenzo River! Learn more about studying steelhead on Branciforte Creek in this blog post from CalTrout.

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