Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
featured top story
Dead in the water

Serious fish kill consumes the Klamath River

WEITCHPEC, Calif. — As it enters the Yurok Reservation, the Lower Klamath River is as picturesque as it gets. Clear water rushes over gentle rapids, framed by verdant hills and a cerulean sky. An untrained eye would never notice the devastation beneath the surface — save for the tiny fish floating lifeless in the water.

Klamath River

The Klamath River at Martins Ferry, on the Yurok Reservation.

Over the past several weeks, an outbreak of the parasite Ceratonova shasta has ripped through young salmon throughout the lower reaches of the Klamath watershed. Driven by high temperatures and low flows out of Iron Gate Dam, the disease is resulting in what the Yurok Tribe is calling a “catastrophic” fish kill.


The screw trap at Weitchpec catches juvenile salmon that the Yurok Fisheries Department evaluates to assess the impacts of disease on the population. Staff photo by Alex Schwartz


The Klamath River flow gauge at Orleans, roughly 45 river miles from the coast, between May 15 and May 21, 2021. Its flow is less than 40 percent of normal for this time of year. Graph from the U.S. Geological Survey


Jamie Holt, fisheries technician for the Yurok Tribe and a Yurok citizen, prepares to take a boat out to check the screw trap at Weitchpec. Staff photo by Alex Schwartz


Jamie Holt lines up the dead fish collected on Wednesday morning by the Yurok Tribe’s Weitchpec screw trap. With 25 “morts,” as they’re called, it’s the best day fishery staff have seen since the beginning of May. But it’s still well above what they’d expect in a typical year — and a typical river system. Staff photo by Alex Schwartz


Wednesday's trapped dead fish that have succumbed to the disease C. shasta. Though trap mortality has lowered this week, spore counts have jumped up again, suggesting that the outbreak is not over. Staff photo by Alex Schwartz

klamath river weitchpec

The Klamath River near Weitchpec, roughly 40 miles from the Pacific Ocean.