Written by: Aquatic Ecologist Eric Ettlinger
This is the first Lagunitas Creek Spawner Update of the 2018-19 season and a lot of salmon spawning has already happened. We here at MMWD typically start looking for adult salmon in late October but often find nothing until the coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) arrive with the first rains, usually in mid-November.
Last year we were shocked to find pink salmon (O. gorbuscha) on our first survey, which prompted us to start this year’s surveys in early October. Biologists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife had the same idea, but they started looking a full month earlier. Amazingly, they observed pink salmon and fresh redds (gravel nests) on September 5! That may be normal timing up in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s the height of the dry season around here. Over the following month five pink salmon and six redds were seen, but none since.
MMWD increases flows in Lagunitas Creek each year on November 15 to assist salmon on their migration. This year the extra water seems to have encouraged Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) to start spawning. Between last week and this week we counted 49 Chinook and ten redds. We also observed a pair of chum salmon (O. keta) - making this the third year in a row we’ve observed this species.
The rain finally arrived on Thanksgiving and by Saturday I had a voicemail telling me that coho salmon were swimming up San Geronimo Creek. Surveys this week revealed 37 coho and seven redds. One pool in Samuel P. Taylor State Park held 28 adult coho! Rain is forecast for tomorrow, so Friday and Saturday will hopefully be great days to see salmon spawning at the Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area.
Seven Chinook salmon on a redd. Smaller males keep their distance from the biggest male in the center. (Photo: E. Ettlinger).