Salmon Camera on a Stick

In 2019, Friends of Auburn Ravine developed a new system for Salmon Surveys that will help us to count and document juvenile salmon as they move downstream each year in the March to May timeframe

The system uses a GoPro video camera attached to the far end of an extendable painter’s pole.  A special wire carries the GoPro’s WiFi signal along the pole to the other end where an Android tablet allows the user to see live full-motion video from the GoPro.  The tablet also allows the user to send commands to the GoPro.  For example, recording can be turned on and off as needed to conserve battery power and memory space.

March 15, 2022

Small Salmon Schooling in Auburn Ravine!

The fall of 2021 was a good season for adult salmon swimming up Auburn Ravine to spawn in the foothills east of downtown Lincoln, CA.

Well over a hundred large fall-run chinook salmon, some over 43 inches long, made the trip.  The thousands of eggs that they laid in gravel beds hatched some weeks ago, and the young salmon (now about 2 inches long) have begun to swim downstream toward the ocean in large schools.

Intrepid volunteers from Friends of Auburn Ravine were dispatched to capture some video of this inspiring annual event using our new “Salmon Camera on a Stick”. 

And WOW, were they successful!

On multiple trips over the last few weeks, they have documented many hundreds of these juvenile salmon actively feeding in riffles and pools as they move downstream.

While they were at it, they also captured video of many other fish that make their homes in Auburn Ravine including Bass, Sunfish, Sacramento Suckers, Pike Minnow, and Rainbow Trout.  This 2-minute video shows them, and the baby salmon.  (The Steelhead and Lamprey that also inhabit the creek managed to dodge our cameras…)

Our “Salmon Camera on a Stick” system improves on the typical “GoPro on a Stick” by adding a viewing screen on the handle.  This gives users a live action remote viewing capability that lets them see in real time what the camera is seeing.  This makes it easier to capture good images and saves time compared to the old “point and hope” method where the user had to repeatedly pull the camera out of the water to see what it had recorded.  The first scenes of the video show one of our volunteers using this new system.

On the video below, see how this worked during some testing we did in the winter of 2020.  It was too early in the year for us to see baby salmon, but we did get some good views of small Pike Minnow.

Project Update: June 16, 2021

Our field testing with the final prototype our “Salmon Cam on a Stick” is well underway.  We have about 50 hours of in-stream time completed so far, and hope to have about 100 hours in another week.  Thanks to the generous support of our friends at the Rose Foundation, we were able to develop a unique underwater device that allows a camera operator to see, in real time, what is happening under the water.  Friends of Auburn Ravine (FAR) will deploy several of the devices in the coming months, enabling our volunteers to document the underwater ecology of the stream.

Instead of the old method of turning on a GoPro camera and sticking it in the water without being able to see what is being recorded, FAR’s “Salmon Cam on a Stick” allows the operator to visually explore the underwater environment, seeking out subjects of interest, and turning the recorder on and off remotely.  It results in better image capture in much less time than the conventional technique.  It even has lights for those dark undercut banks.

Evan Burnett, a wildlife management student at Humboldt State University, is conducting field tests of the device this summer along Auburn Ravine during his internship with FAR.  As the video shows, he has already captured excellent images.  He found the fine specimen of a rainbow trout (O. mykiss) that you will see in the video about 5 miles upstream from Lincoln in Auburn Ravine a few days ago.

We intend to use this system when we do surveys of juvenile salmonids in Auburn Ravine next winter and spring. 

One of our Board members, Steve Hubbard, developed the system, and produced this 1-minute video: