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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jan 16

Lagunitas Creek Spawner Update: 1/16/2019

Posted on January 16, 2019 at 4:02 PM by Emma Detwiler

The Headline
This year's coho run is officially the largest in 12 years! Over 300 redds and 700 coho salmon have been counted so far. And spawning continues...

The Details
Over the last couple of weeks wet weather and muddy creeks have hampered our ability to conduct spawner surveys, but we’ve now walked almost all of the stream segments we regularly survey. Coho are spawning pretty much everywhere.

On Friday we counted 29 new redds in Devil’s Gulch, bringing the season total for that little creek to 60. San Geronimo Creek has 75 coho redds so far, plus 39 redds in two of its tributaries that are monitored by the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN).

The San Geronimo Valley hasn’t hosted so many coho since the record run of 2004-05. National Park Service staff counted over 50 redds in Olema Creek prior to the government shutdown, but haven’t been able to conduct surveys in almost three weeks. Unfortunately the current storm may erase all signs of spawning from that period.

We continue to see some steelhead spawning, but turbulent and murky water have made these grey fish and their small redds difficult to find. We saw only eight steelhead this week, but the 45 steelhead and 35 steelhead redds seen to date is well above average. With dry weather forecast for next week we hope to survey all the streams and not miss a single fish.
coho
 A coho female (left) and male (right) in Devil's Gulch on January 11.

Jan 07

Lagunitas Creek Spawner Update: 1/7/2019

Posted on January 7, 2019 at 4:23 PM by Emma Detwiler

by Eric Ettlinger, Aquatic Ecologist

Happy New Year! The holiday season is always a busy time for spawner surveys, but luckily this year we got a two-week break in the rain that allowed us to survey 34 km of streams in the Lagunitas and Walker Creek watersheds, and still take some time off. Well, “time off” is relative as I brought my extended family to watch a whole lot of salmon on Christmas Day.

Since my last update we’ve counted 58 coho redds, bringing the season total to 160. That’s slightly higher than average for this date, but we’ve also counted 563 adult coho salmon - the highest count in 12 years. It remains a mystery why we’re seeing so many fish but only slightly above-average numbers of redds. Many of the fish we saw last week had not yet spawned, so the redd count may still grow considerably. Fingers crossed.

We can now say for certain that the steelhead run is off to a very good start. We’ve counted 24 steelhead redds so far, which is a record for this date, along with 21 adult steelhead. And we’re still at least a month away from the typical peak in the steelhead spawning season.

In addition to all the coho and steelhead, we also saw four Chinook salmon on January 2. Seeing Chinook and steelhead on the same day is very unusual and somewhat, frankly, frustrating. Both species can appear like large, grey fish from a distance, or even up close when the water is turbid. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time watching fish with binoculars to get their identification right, which can certainly be a fun activity when the air temperature is above freezing. The 67 Chinook and 19 Chinook redds seen to date will hopefully be the final count for the season.

Lastly, this weekend’s rain raised the flow of Lagunitas Creek to a level possibly high enough to uncover and wash away salmon eggs. We don’t know exactly how high the flows got since the two stream gages are down and the US Geological Survey has indicated it doesn’t have any money for maintenance. The government shutdown is also preventing our colleagues at the National Park Service from conducting spawner surveys on Olema and Redwood Creeks. Our best wishes go out to these folks who surely want to get back to doing their important work. spawner blog
A typical (i.e., not very clear) view of adult salmonids taken on January 2, 2019. There are at least two steelhead among the coho salmon in this photo.
Dec 21

Coho Ho! Merry Kisutch!

Posted on December 21, 2018 at 9:07 AM by Ann Vallee

Written by: Eric Ettlinger, Aquatic Ecologist

It’s been a VERY BUSY week on Lagunitas Creek. The rain we received over the weekend was just what was needed to get the salmon moving upstream and spawning. I didn’t get to see fish jumping myself, but I’ve heard from a number of folks that the Inkwells were hopping on Sunday. The timing of the rain was also convenient for folks who wanted to spend their Sunday watching fish fight at the Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area.


So here are the numbers. This week we counted 212 coho salmon in the three streams we survey: Lagunitas Creek, San Geronimo Creek, and Devil’s Gulch. That’s the most fish seen in a single week since 2006! In San Geronimo Creek we counted 75 coho and in Devil’s Gulch (which if you haven’t seen it, is a tiny little stream) we counted 52. The photo below of two male coho salmon (courtesy of Martha Ture) was taken in Devil’s Gulch on Monday. This week we also counted 66 new coho salmon redds (gravel nests), bringing our season total to 102. That’s still slightly below average for this time of year, but many of the fish we saw this week hadn’t yet spawned, so we can expect our redd count to increase over the next few weeks.


We’ve also counted ten steelhead to date, which may not seem impressive but is actually the most seen at this time of year since 2001. We typically see only a small fraction of the steelhead in the creek because they’re fairly cryptic and don’t spend much time on their redds. We suspect there are a lot more steelhead already in the creek because we’re seeing quite a few small but deep redds, which is typical of steelhead. We’re fairly confident that six of these redds were built by steelhead, but haven’t classified the others mostly because it’s just SO early for steelhead to be spawning. Is this the start of a record steelhead run? We’ll have to wait and see.


Happy Holidays!

spawner update