Tag Archives: salmon watching

It’s salmon-watching time on Kitsap Peninsula

The salmon are coming! The salmon are coming!

The recent rains have done the job; the streams have risen; and chum salmon are moving swiftly into Chico Creek — and probably other streams on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Click on image to open interactive map.
Click to open interactive map.

I stopped by Chico Salmon Viewing Park today and observed chum in all portions of the stream and moving upstream at the bridge on Chico Way. The park, where volunteers have made significant improvements, is adjacent to Kitsap Golf and Country Club. Park officials say it is OK to walk around the chain-link fence and enter the park, but please stay on the trails once you are inside.

I also noticed a large number of salmon at the mouth of Chico Creek, milling around the culvert under Highway 3. The old culvert on Kittyhawk Drive has been torn out, so it is no longer an obstacle. The stream channel has been reconfigured to look and function like a natural stream. See Kitsap Sun, Aug. 26.

At least a dozen anglers were fishing out beyond the mouth of the stream, where they should be. Fishers and other observers are asked to stay on the trail, be careful not to trample recent plantings, and stay out of the stream channel. No fishing is allowed upstream of the high-tide mark down on the beach.

I recently wrote about how killer whales of the Salish Sea have begun to follow the chum salmon into Central and South Puget Sound. Chum are a primary prey species for the orcas, after chinook runs decline. See Kitsap Sun, Oct. 20.

I have to admit that I still get excited when I see energetic salmon finding their way upstream, swimming around rocks and logs, rushing through shallow riffles and hanging out in deep pools. If you visit the major salmon streams, such as Chico Creek, over the next week or two, you’ll avoid the smell of rotting salmon that generally comes later. As for me, I like to watch the salmon during all portions of the run.

For a map of accessible salmon-viewing locations with videos that describe each spot, go to Kitsap Peninsula Salmon Watching. While there, check out the tips for successful salmon-viewing.

If anyone gets a decent photo of salmon in the streams, please send it to my email address and I’ll post it on this blog. I tried to get photos today, but I didn’t have enough light.

If you’d like to learn about salmon from fisheries biologists, consider attending this year’s Kitsap Salmon Tours on Saturday, Nov. 8, at four locations:

  • Cowling Creek Center, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 20345 Miller Bay Road.
  • Poulsbo Fish Park, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Lindvig Way in Poulsbo, www.city of poulsbo.com/parks/parks_events.htm.
  • Chico Salmon Viewing Park, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., adjacent to Kitsap Golf and Country Club, www.ext100.wsu.edu/kitsap.
  • Mountaineers Rhododendron Preserve, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with walking tours at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., www.ext100.wsu.edu/kitsap.I

It’s time to get out and watch the salmon

This year’s return of chum salmon to Hood Canal remains on track to break the record, coming in with four times as many fish as predicted earlier this year.

Watching salmon at Poulsbo's Fish Park Photo by Tristan Baurick
Watching salmon from a bridge in Poulsbo’s Fish Park
Photo by Tristan Baurick

Last week, I reported that the total run size for Hood Canal fall chum appeared to be about 1.4 million fish, according to computer models. See Kitsap Sun, Oct. 30 (subscription). The modern-day record is 1.18 million, set in 2003. If conditions hold, this year’s run will easily exceed that.

The large Hood Canal run also is expected to provide an economic boost of some $5 million to $6 million for commercial fishers, not including fish processors and stores that sell the fish.

The forecast models are based largely on commercial harvests. Data collected since I wrote the story only tend to confirm the record-breaking run, according to salmon managers. Final estimates won’t be compiled until the end of the season.

The chum run in Central and South Puget Sound also are looking very good. The latest data suggest that the run could reach 700,000, or nearly twice the preseason estimate and well above average.

Meanwhile, the large chum runs are attracting Puget Sound’s orcas to the waters off Bainbridge Island and Seattle, as chinook runs decline in the San Juan Islands and elsewhere. As I described in a story on Sunday, it has been an odd year for the whales, which may have spent most of the summer chasing chinook off the coast of Washington. See Kitsap Sun, Nov. 2 (subscription).

A chum salmon crosses a log weir at Kitsap Golf and Country Club. Photo by Meegan Reid
A chum salmon crosses a log weir in Chico Creek at Kitsap Golf and Country Club.
Photo by Meegan Reid

The large chum run also promises to provide some great viewing opportunities for people to watch the salmon migration in their local streams. I would direct you to the interactive salmon-viewing map that Amy Phan and I completely revamped last year for the Kitsap Sun’s website. The map includes videos describing salmon streams across the Kitsap Peninsula.

Speaking of salmon-watching, everyone is invited to Saturday’s Kitsap Salmon Tours, an annual event in which biologists talk about the amazing salmon and their spawning rituals. One can choose to visit one or both of the locations in Central Kitsap. For details, check out the Kitsap Public Utility District’s Website.

One of the locations, now named Chico Salmon Park, is undergoing a major facelift, thanks to more than 100 hours of volunteer labor over the past two weekends — not to mention earlier work going back to the beginning of the year. See the Kitsap County news release issued today.

Volunteers working on the park deserve a lot of credit for removing blackberry vines, Scotchbroom and weeds from this overgrown area. This property, which has Chico Creek running through it, is going to be a wonderful park someday after native trees and plants become established. (See Kitsap Sun, Feb. 2, 2013)

If you’re into kayaking, there’s still time to watch from the water. See Olympic Outdoors Center or check out the tips by reporter Tristan Baurick, Kitsap Sun, Oct. 21, 2013 (subscription).

Here’s my final word: If you live on the Kitsap Peninsula — or anywhere around Puget Sound — you should visit a salmon stream to learn what all the fuss is about — and be sure to take the kids.

Purse seine boats working on major chum salmon run on Hood Canal. Photo by Larry Steagall
Purse seine boats make the best of a major chum salmon run on Hood Canal last week.
Photo by Larry Steagall

Chum salmon are arriving, and you can watch them

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.

You’ll find my story about the beginning of salmon season in today’s Kitsap Sun. The web address for the salmon map is easy to remember: www.kitsapsun.com/salmon.
Continue reading

Coho, chum salmon running with high water

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 Sound.

A coho salmon tries to leap into an outlet from the salmon-rearing ponds at Otto Jarstad Park in Gorst last week.
Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid

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 run clearer.

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.

Looking back on recent news about water issues

The “common cold” is not what it used to be — or maybe I’m not what I used to be. Does anybody think our viruses today are more hostile?

In any case, a bout with some kind of respiratory bug has knocked me back about five days. I would call it the flu, except that I didn’t have much of a fever.

So now I find myself with a backlog of news stories that I had planned to discuss with you all. Since time doesn’t stop, there will be more stories tomorrow and the day after that.

So I’ll mention some of the interesting stories from the past week and offer you a chance to comment on any of these things. If something provokes your interest or concern, I’ll be happy to moderate or join the conversation.

Fuel spill at PSNS (Thursday)

Last Thursday, 500 gallons of jet fuel spilled from the USS Abraham Lincoln. Fortunately, the ship had been preboomed, so the spill was contained and did not spread out across the harbor.

I covered the first news story on this spill, and I still have some questions, but I haven’t been back to work long enough to get them answered. For example, I have always been told that you shouldn’t preboom highly volatile liquids, such as gasoline and kerosene, for fear they could catch fire. Has something changed about this idea? (I know one boom was already in place, which is now a standard Navy precaution. But they added another.)

Salmon migration (Sunday)

Sunday’s Kitsap Sun featured my annual story encouraging people to go out and watch chum salmon migrating upstream. As usual, the package included a map of local streams (interactive map for online viewers) and tips for watching the fish without disturbing them.

Wherever you live, you may be interested to know how the runs are shaping up, which I covered in a general way. Chum are doing quite well, but not like the records of the recent past. Pinks were amazing. Coho are coming in large, but their abundance varies by location.

Ueland gravel operation (Monday)

Reporter Derek Sheppard filled in well for me on a story I have been following for a couple of years. I’m talking about the public hearing to decide whether a gravel mine, rock quarry and possible concrete batch plant should be built west of Kitsap Lake. There are a lot of issues involved, including traffic on Northlake Way and water quality and quantity going into Chico Creek. The hearing was continued to Dec. 10, so there will be more discussion.

Gravel zoning in Jefferson County (Tuesday)

The Washington State Court of Appeals agreed that the Jefferson County commissioners acted properly in zoning 690 acres in East Jefferson as a “mineral resources land overlay.” Here’s a question: I had understood that the zoning was a prerequisite to the proposed pit-to-pier project, whether or not the zoning stood by itself. But the appeals court ruling states, “(the) future project is not dependent on the proposed action.” If someone would clarify for me, that would be great.

Brown pelican removed from endangered list (today)

I’m not sure how many people check the “Water, Water Everywhere” list at the top of this blog for stories, research and government actions, but I link to a lot of stuff there that I don’t have time to address in detail. Such was the case today with the nationwide de-listing of the brown pelican. Go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release as well as an L.A. Times story.