Well, about 647 visitors and a handful of docents were at the Trail this weekend to witness the end of this year’s salmon run. It was a quiet weekend and a nice way to wrap up a busy month, especially when you added the free coffee from Batdorf & Bronson coffee roasters!
Station 3 did not provide the best viewing this week since most of the salmon were too close to the bank to see well. It did, however, host some active, redd-building females and associated males. These fish, unlike their kin upstream at Stations 8/9, were brightly colored and relatively healthy (not pictured.)
Since my last blog the turbid water had cleared up and the water level had fallen.
Of course, there were many dead salmon in the vicinity as well as the sea gulls that feasted on them. Eagles and mink are other common predators that were also spotted this weekend.
The tell tale sign of the end of the season is, of course, the smell that keeps on giving : )
Fiscus Creek, while hosting spawning salmon earlier in the season, had not a single (visible or audible) live salmon. In fact, the number of dead salmon in both creeks far outnumbered the live salmon.
The smell, to me, has become an oddly welcomed signal of the salmon’s return and of the season. I am well aware these dead chum offer new life to the forest ecosystem, particularly to their offspring, who will emerge from the gravel as fry in the spring, fortified for the 18,000 mile journey ahead of them.
Stations 8/9 were once again clear since the higher flows have subsided.
The conditions were ideal for viewing our chums. At this point, most of the fish in the creek were covered in fungus that made female hard to distinguish from male. In fact, they looked a bit like koi…
I also noticed that Fiscus and Kennedy Creeks had a layer of silt that now covered the creek bed, disguising reds and the gravel that was ‘cleaned’ by the females constructing their redds.
All in all, this was a successful season for our docents and staff. The salmon run, on the other hand, was very small compared to recent years. About 17,000 chum made it to the creek this year. This small return could have had to do with any number of variables such as conditions in the creek when the salmon were incubating or emerging, estuary conditions, or ocean conditions.
We look forward to welcoming back greater numbers next year.
Be sure to check our website in the coming week or so for photos from our wildlife camera. We positioned this camera at the trail about halfway through the month to capture wildlife in the act of eating dead and dying salmon. We’ll just have to see what the camera card may hold…