When I first started covering the environment for the Kitsap Sun
in the early 1980s, I convinced a state fish biologist to make me a
copy of a notebook containing information about salmon streams on
the Kitsap Peninsula.
Hand-drawn maps of streams, both big and small, along with field
notes about the migration of salmon, stream blockages and other
information were listed in that notebook. Through the years, the
information was updated, combined with other data and eventually
transferred to electronic databases for wider access.
A few years ago, much of this little-known information was
digitized into a map that could be accessed by anyone from a web
browser. The map, using a geographic information system, is such a
valuable tool that I wanted to make sure that readers of this blog
are aware of it.
It was given the name SalmonScape, and the map
shows salmon streams across the state (click “hydrography”); salmon
migration by species (“fish distribution”); stream blockages (“fish
passage”); and hatcheries, fish traps and major dams
Well, we got it done, at least for now. I’m talking about a
project that included a total of 27 new videos and an interactive
map, all to help people observe the annual migration of chum salmon
on the Kitsap Peninsula.
This project is one reason I have not written as many stories or
blog entries as I normally would have over the past few weeks.
This is the fourth remake of the salmon map, going back to the
first map published in the newspaper in 1995. This year, reporter
Amy Phan produced the videos, adding many more location shots.
We’ve also added an overview video describing the project and how
to use the map (below).
Because most of the filming was done before the rains arrived,
streamflows in the videos are lower than what you will see if you
go out now. If I had it to do again, I would have shot more video
of salmon last fall. We’ll probably substitute some new shots of
salmon in the streams.
Salmon-watching season may be somewhat shortened this year, but
recent rains have encouraged large numbers of fish to swim into
streams on the Kitsap Peninsula and probably elsewhere in Puget
It appears that coho and chum salmon were hanging out in
saltwater waiting for adequate rains, which arrived last week. I
covered the issue fairly extensively in a story in
Friday’s Kitsap Sun.
Normally, the peak of the chum salmon run occurs around
Thanksgiving on the east side of the Kitsap Peninsula. Jon Oleyar,
a biologist with the Suquamish Tribe, tells me that the salmon run
is probably now on the decline, with dead and dying fish beginning
to be seen today in larger numbers.
For most of this week (at least after tomorrow night), the rains
will probably hold off for awhile. Check out the forecast from the
National Weather Service. Drier weather could help the streams
Salmon-watchers on the Kitsap Peninsula have seen a decline in
coho in recent years, and biologists say it is probably because
streamflows have become more “flashy.” More roads and other
impervious surfaces carry water to the streams faster and allow for
less infiltration. Losing infiltration means lower summer flows,
which are important for coho, because coho remain in freshwater the
first summer of their lives.
Anyway, this year we’re seeing more coho in the local streams.
Jon tells me they are mainly hatchery fish, probably strays from
the Suquamish Tribe’s net pens in Agate Passage. Those fish were
meant to improve fishing for both tribal and sport fishers, but
some got away. Whether the coho hatchery strays are beneficial or
harmful to the wild runs remains a subject of debate.
Some of the best salmon-viewing spots are shown on an
interactive map that Angela Hiatt and I made four years ago. See
Kitsap Salmon runs.
If anyone knows of other good spots with public access, please
share them in the comments section.