Salmon migration on display during Saturday’s Kitsap Salmon Tours

Recent rains are bringing chum salmon into numerous streams on the Kitsap Peninsula, according to Jon Oleyar, biologist for the Suquamish Tribe. But more rains are needed to help the salmon reach the upper tributaries and fully seed the system, he added.

Chum salmon swim up Chico Creek on Thursday (11-1). // Photo: Emma Jeffries

“The fall fish are right on schedule,” Jon told me, “but I wish they had more water, especially for the tributaries.”

Folks attending the Kitsap Salmon Tours this Saturday should be able to see fish in most locations on this year’s list. Read on for details.

The fall chum themselves seem larger than average this year, Jon said, which means the streams need a little more water than usual for the fish to easily swim upstream.

Salmon can move quickly upstream and become stranded in too-shallow water after a downpour followed by a dry period, he said. In a worst-case scenario, fish may die before spawning. Once the rains have saturated the soil, the risk of low flows is reduced, but as of today we’re not at that point yet. Heavy rains last Saturday brought many fish into the streams, he added, but streams levels have dropped somewhat since then.

“The fish will go as far as they can,” according to Jon, who conducts stream surveys to measure the strength of the salmon migration. “There will always be a few that try to go farther than the others, and they may run out of water.”

The salmon are running at just the right time for the annual Kitsap Salmon Tours, which have been expanded this year with new locations and more volunteers to explain this wonder of nature and celebrate the arrival of salmon.

Kitsap Salmon Tours will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at these locations:

  • Chico Salmon Viewing Park, Chico Way at Golf Club Hill Road: You will find informational booths and experts to help locate and describe the behaviors of the salmon. Wheelchair accessible during Saturday’s event.
  • Chico Creek Mouth, 4270 Kittyhawk Drive: Walk the trail to the delta in this restored stream channel. Talk with experts about salmon and their habitat. (Great Peninsula Conservancy and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
  • Clear Creek Trail/Ridgetop Pavilion, 9228 Ridgetop Blvd.: In addition to talks about salmon. activities include storytime with Silverdale librarian Aleah Jurnecki at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and discussions of “stream bugs” and water-quality studies in Clear Creek. Wheelchair accessible. (Clear Creek Task Force)
  • Cowling Creek, 20325 Miller Bay Road, North Kitsap: Learn about the importance of salmon to the Suquamish people and the need to protect and restore salmon habitat in the region. (Suquamish Tribe and Friends of Miller Bay)
  • Jarstad Park, 4230 W Belfair Valley Road near Gorst: Look for salmon in the restored areas of Gorst Creek; gain insight into the problems of stormwater pollution; attend fly-tying demonstrations; and learn about fish anatomy. (Kitsap Poggie Club)
  • Keta Legacy Foundation Rhododendron Preserve, 2401 Seabeck Highway: Guided tours will take visitors through old-growth trees to the salmon stream. Experts will talk about the life cycle of salmon and their habitats. The 1.5-mile round trip involves going through some rough terrain. After the tour, warm up with refreshments in the historic Kitsap Cabin.
  • Poulsbo Fish Park, 288 NW Lindvig Way: Informational booths as well as arts and crafts and other activities are designed for all ages. Parking is available across from the fish park at Nelson Park or EHL parking lot. A shoreline trail will take you under the Lindvig Bridge to Fish Park. Wheelchair accessible. Information: (360) 779-9898
  • Salmon Haven at Dickerson Creek, Northlake Way and Taylor Road, Bremerton: Restored stream channel at the fork where Dickerson Creek flows into Chico Creek. Site includes a picnic shelter.

For more information about the event, visit the website for Kitsap Salmon Tours.

With rain in the forecast, participants going to this year’s salmon tours should be prepared with raingear and sturdy shoes for walking through damp areas.

Chum salmon in Chico Creek.
Photo: Kitsap Sun file photo

The best bet for seeing salmon on your outing is always Chico Salmon Viewing Park on Chico Way, where Chico Creek meanders through the park. Chico Creek remains the most productive chum salmon stream on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Other good options include Dickerson Creek and Rhododendron Preserve upstream from the park and Kittyhawk Drive (Chico Creek mouth) downstream. A few chum as well as some coho have begun to move up into Jarstad Park near Gorst following a sizable run of Chinook to the nearby salmon-rearing facility.

In general, the peak of the chum run in Chico Creek comes around Thanksgiving, and one can return to the Chico Salmon Viewing Park throughout the fall. Blackjack Creek, which runs through Port Orchard, contains an early run of chum that is a bit late this year, Jon tells me. Gorst Creek and other streams in Sinclair Inlet contain later runs of chum, generally making for good viewing right up until Christmas and sometimes later.

For other locations to view salmon, check out the Kitsap Sun’s salmon-viewing map, which still provides some good information for the Kitsap area. Click on the fish shown on the map for details about a particular site.

One thought on “Salmon migration on display during Saturday’s Kitsap Salmon Tours

  1. It wasn’t until taking a tour in middle school – much like the Kitsap Salmon Tour – that I understood how vital a resource like salmon could be to a tribe of people. For many tribes in the Pacific Northwest, salmon function as both an ecological and cultural keystone species. Indigenous people couldn’t just run down to a local grocery store to pick up dinner; instead, they had to rely on the limited resources in their environment to survive. As a result, readily available food sources were highly prized and became integral parts of societal life. In the Northwest, anadromous fish like salmon often became interwoven into the cultural experience of many tribes and played vital roles in folklore, myth and legend, ritualistic experiences, and tribal identity. The great reverence that many indigenous people show towards animals and plants makes a lot of sense in light of that historical backdrop, and I think it’s great that groups like the Kitsap Salmon Tour help people experience that cultural lens.

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