Gorst Creek is the place to go right now when looking for migrating salmon — not only chum but also coho, all decked out in their bright-red spawning colors, according to Jon Oleyar, who surveys East Kitsap streams for the Suquamish Tribe.
Jon called me last night with the news the coho, which adds some excitement to the salmon-watching experience.
Coho often hide along the stream edges, making them hard to spot. That’s why I generally focus the attention of salmon watchers on the more abundant chum, which race right up the middle of the streams. But it’s great when coho add themselves to the mix.
Jon reported that the coho can be seen easily in Gorst Creek at Otto Jarstad Park off Belfair Valley Road.
“There are a ton of fish in there,” he said, “and there are a lot of coho, bright red.”
He said there were also plenty of chum, some that have been in the stream awhile and others that have just arrived.
Bremerton Public Works officials, who manage the park, have not objected to people parking outside the park gate and walking into the park, where salmon-viewing platforms were built along the stream by the Kitsap Poggie Club.
One good spot, Jon said, is near a pipe where water from the nearby salmon-rearing operation pours out into the stream. Salmon seem to get confused and try to jump up into the pipe before heading on upstream.
Gorst Creek contains one of the latest chum runs on the Kitsap Peninsula, and people may be able to see salmon there until the end of the year. I often tell local residents that Jarstad Park is a good place to take out-of-town visitors during the holidays.
That’s especially the case this year, when the chum run in the Chico Creek system has basically run its course. The peak of the run typically comes at Thanksgiving, but this year it was about two weeks early, Jon tells me. While this year’s run was a decent size, he said, the stream right now is mostly a “smelly graveyard.”
“It is one of the earliest runs I’ve seen here,” he said of the Chico chum. “To have everything dead by Thanksgiving is very unusual.”
Another possibility for seeing salmon is Dogfish Creek, which runs through Poulsbo. “There might be a few stragglers in Dogfish Creek,” Jon said.
It’s not too late to take a look at any of the viewing spots listed on my salmon viewing map of the Kitsap Peninsula, but don’t go in with high hopes of seeing a lot of salmon at this time of year. Gorst, it appears, is the one sure bet at the moment. (The map also contains tips for observing salmon, which can be easily spooked.)
It’s worth noting that the rains this fall continue to be nearly ideal for the salmon, coming in with just enough intensity and frequency to keep the streams flowing at a good level without flooding. I covered this issue in Water Ways on Oct. 31.
“It has been perfect for salmon,” Jon told me yesterday. “Those early storms brought up the streams, and the fish that were coming in early had plenty of water.”
When the rains eventually dropped off, springs created by those rains kept the streams flowing until the next rains arrived. As a result, salmon were able to distribute themselves as far upstream as they could go. That does not happen every year.
A torrential downpour could still cause flooding and disrupt salmon eggs incubating in the gravel, but for now things look good on the Kitsap Peninsula.
As for total rainfall, we were on a record pace for the month of October across most of the Kitsap Peninsula, as I reported in Water Ways at the end of last month. But, as you can see from the charts below, we dropped off the record pace in early November but remain above average for the water year, which begins Oct. 1.