The spawning chinook salmon are at the end of their life cycle and would die in the river after laying their eggs.
At the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in San Joaquin County, the eggs are being harvested by humans.
Fish and Game officer Andrew Hughan says the dead fish don't go to waste.
HUGHAN: "These fish are 100 percent recycled and all of the meat is taken out and 50 percent is given to Native American tribes and 50 percent is given to Northern California food banks."
After several years of low counts, the numbers are up...at Nimbus, 10,000 salmon, and another 5,000 at Mokelumne will provide food for the needy, and the eggs more fish for the future.
HUGHAN: "We raise approximately 40 million individual chinook salmon across the state to keep the hatcheries going and to improve the salmon run every year."
The salmon run continues through December.