The experiment seems to be working, and that is very good news, as the Sacramento Bee reports.
“The salmon swam out of the rice fields Wednesday, and they came out fatter than ever.
“The experiment to raise juvenile salmon in flooded rice fields began in February when scientists put 50,000 pinky-sized fish into flooded test fields on 18 acres in the Yolo Bypass north of Woodland.
“The goal of the experiment, now in its second year, is to verify whether flooded rice fields are better for young salmon than life in the river, and to find the best floodplain conditions to help the fish thrive. The idea is to mimic historical conditions, when flooding gave salmon access to virtually the entire Sacramento Valley.
“On Wednesday, when researchers retrieved and weighed their test subjects, they found the fish packed on weight at an impressive rate: 0.17 grams per day on average.
“In plain terms, that means pinky-sized baby salmon grew into chubby, palm-sized adolescents. In six weeks, they grew nearly 1.5 inches longer.
“Their kin in the river? Salmon that started at the same size and were released into the 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 researcher at UC Davis, which partnered in the experiment with California Trout and the California Department of Water Resources.
“The salmon were able to swim back to the Sacramento River via canals that link the test fields to drains in the Yolo Bypass. Along the way, they were netted for counting and measuring.”