Well these rains are quite nice and are providing the fish great opportunities to reach their spawning grounds. As of 12/12/03 fish can be seen at Devil's Gulch, Leo Cronin, Inkwells, Roy's Pools (and Upstream of the pools on the golf course) and Larsen Creek. Otter alert! - You have read Susan Farar's well written account of her experience with the Salmon and Otters (see below). I just got word from of creekside resident on Woodacre creek that they spotted 4 River otters behind her house 2 weeks ago. As you may know this is quite far upstream. I have never heard any reports of them being seen this far upstream! I will keep you posted. There is a small woody debris jam that appears to be obstructing/impeding passage of fish during low winter flow conditions on the San Geronimo Golf Course. We and the water district are keeping an eye on it. Fish ARE able to pass the jam during high flow conditions.
Salmon vs. Otters
by SPAWN Naturalist Susan Farar
The siren call of winter rains in Marin has again lured the fat Coho salmon back into the creeks where they were born. Early Sunday morning I ventured out to all the local hot spots, hoping to see big, red Coho spawning in our watershed. I first went to Roy's Pools but it was obvious from the relatively low water flow that I wouldn't be seeing any fish jumping through the fish ladder there.
I drove down Sir Francis Drake to the Shafter Bridge and hiked down to the Ink Wells' stair-step series of pools. I found several salmon holding there and attempting to jump, but again the water flow was just not sufficient. I did see an acrobatic Coho parr, not more than 5 inches long, that repeatedly jumped 4 feet or more trying to negotiate the first waterfall. I want to see him when he comes back full grown!
Then I walked up the creek towards Kent Dam. As I walked from my car in the parking lot next to the creek, I immediately spied 3 large female Coho building redd's. One especially choosy female, kept moving to different locations along the riffle, trying to pick the perfect site. Only one 2-year-old jack was there to service all three of these lovely salmon and he moved from female to female, monitoring their progress as they built their nests and readied for spawning.
Seeing so many Coho in that small area made me very hopeful that I would see many more along the creek so I walked further. It was a perfect morning for a hike ? fog nestled amongst the trees still dripping from last night's steady rain. The air was most and relatively warm.
I neared a good-sized pool and saw a couple of males battling for position in the creek. Suddenly several huge fish came barreling down the creek but they were very unusual; larger than salmon and grayish tan in color. I lifted by binoculars to get a better look when one of the fish got out of the water and started leaping across the rocks. They weren't fish all but six river otters. Imagine six otters in a place where they are rarely seen as the population has been largely lost in Marin. They plated in front of me for awhile until one of the otters spied me up above them on the bank.They took off lickety-splick down the creek and, of course, I followed.
I neared one of my favorite spawning sites on the creek, where the sign says, "Quiet, Salmon Spawning" and walked down the hill to get a closer look. There was a large female building a redd right there right next to woody debris installed in the creek. I watched her for a few minutes and then noticed hidden in the woody debris one of the otters munching away on a large salmon, split open, bright pink and half-eaten. He continued to munch, unaware that I was there. The female salmon was unaware of his presence too and moved too close to where he was hidden. The otter leapt into the water and chased her down the creek. She managed to slip away and so did the dead fish the otter was eating as another otter came and dragged away the kill.
I waited for 15 minutes and the female returned but she held in a deep part of the pool and didn't return to her redd. At that time I had to leave.
I left with mixed feelings. It was clear that the otters could clean the pools of salmon in a day and that would be a significant loss to the struggling salmon that are on the brink of extinction. The river otters are also struggling for survival in the area and are only recently gaining a foothold. One threatened species was feeding on the other.
CHINOOK,CHUM and COHO SALMON SPAWNING
IN MARIN'S LAGUNITAS WATERSHED
Coho salmon have returned to spawn in the creeks. The rains that we have experienced in the last 3 days have filled the creeks enough to enable our watershed neighbors to return home. We have noted heavy spawning activity at Shafter Bridge, Jumping at the Inkwells, and spawning in San Geronimo Creek near Lagunitas. I even saw a muskrat today and a deer walking across the creek (practically over a nest!). In addition, I am pretty sure that I saw a chinook salmon up from Shafter Bridge. This fish was much larger than coho and gray. It disappeared before I could get a better view of it. Chinook have been seen throughout Lagunitas this season so I am not surprised. There are other locations that coho are likely spawning such as Lagunitas in SP Taylor State Park and possibly Devil's Gulch.
Come on a creekwalk to see the spawning salmon! Now is a great time to do it!
If you go into the watershed on your own, please send me a message alerting me to your discoveries!! Remember to be respectful of the salmon and other species dependent on a healthy watershed.
SEE SPAWNING SALMON ON A NATURALIST LED CREEK WALK.
We have observed three different species of salmon spawning in the Lagunitas Watershed this winter so far - Coho, Chinook and Chum. Salmon could be seen from Samuel P. Taylor Park to below Lagunitas. Salmon were seen at Lagunitas Creek upstream of Irving bridge, Lagunitas Creek near Devil's Gulch, Lagunitas Creek Below Devils Gulch.
The public is invited to come on a creek walk with one of SPAWN's Creek Naturalists to view the spawning salmon. Visitors will learn about the fascinating life history of endangered salmon, the stream ecosystem, and the impacts that these and other species face in the Lagunitas Watershed. (See information below).Naturalist Notes
The Marin Municipal Water District as of late last week (11/6/03) saw 18 redds (nests) between Tocaloma and Devil's Gulch and 5 redds downstream of Tocaloma. They had only seen five live chinook so far. Two chinook were as far upstream of the campground bridge in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. They only saw two chinook actually on redds. One of them was on her redd for a week, right at the mouth of Devil's Gulch but she is no longer there.
SPAWN naturalist Kaye Swafford, who was combing the watershed on Sunday (11/9), discovered a coho moving upstream on Lagunitas Creek below Devil's Gulch.
Todd Steiner, SPAWN's Director, watched a chum salmon for hours while spawning at Irving Bridge on Lagunitas Creek Sunday. As of Monday (11/10) afternoon, he said the female was still over her redd there (see attached photos by Todd).
The most unique and interesting observation was by veteran SPAWN naturalist David Ford. This salmo-phile was out at 10pm Saturday night (11/8) with his flashlight at the Inkwells on San Geronimo Creek in anticipation of seeing the first leaping salmon after the season's first big storm! However, much to his surprise he observed 4-5 lampreys working their way up the rocks and cascading water at the inkwells. Lampreys also spawn in these creeks and spend part of their life at sea as do salmon. Their nests are small (1-2 foot wide) pits that they excavate in the stream bed. The young live in the creeks for 2-7 years before heading out to sea.
More salmon are likely congregating at the mouth of this watershed awaiting the coming rains which will enable them to reach their spawning habitat which extends as far as Woodacre, 33 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The return of these species marks the dramatic end of their journey which began in these creeks 3-5 years ago.
Tell your friends and come on creek walk!
Coho, chinook and even chum salmon have been spotted in the Lagunitas Watershed this winter so far. We have received over 27 inches of rain since November according to the rain gauge at our office in Forest Knolls. As a result, Lagunitas Creek, San Geronimo Creek and all of the tributaries were quite full and conditions excellent for spawning coho salmon. Rainfall has slowed in the new year but we are expecting more. Immediately after rain events, there are a few good locations that salmon and steelhead can be seen jumping through in their effort to reach spawning grounds. A site to see salmon jumping is at Roy's Pools on San Geronimo Creek at the San Geronimo Golf course. Another good place to see salmon jumping is at the Inkwells (the confluence of San Geronimo Creek and Lagunitas Creek). They were apparently providing a spectacular show in December for the lucky few witnesses. This site is located across the road from the Leo Cronin Viewing Area at Shafter Bridge.
Peter's Dam on Kent Lake is likely going to be completely full in the next couple of days and will be spilling over into Lagunitas Creek. This may allow fish to more easily move into Lagunitas Creek. As flows increase, you may have luck finding spawning salmon at the Leo Cronin Viewing Area at Shafter Bridge (just downstream of the dam) and in Samuel P. Taylor State Park behind the entrance and along the along the North Creek Trail or South Creek Trail in search of them. Ask the state park ranger how to get to these trails.
It appears that the majority of coho have spawned. However we may see a few late arrivals over the coming weeks. Nevertheless, the steelhead run has begun and we expect to them in increasing numbers.
Since the beginning of the spawning season. There have been 143 coho redds, 20 chinook redds, 2 steelhead redds and 31 unidentified redds. 30 of these redds were counted in the tributaries to San Geronimo Creek by SPAWN survey crews. The remaining redds were counted in Lagunitas, Devils Gulch and San Geronimo Creeks by MMWD.
We ask you to please be respectful of the salmon and their habitat and assure that your visit to the watershed does not impact these sensitive species.
We have created a brochure which outlines the best places to see spawning in the watershed as well as proper salmon viewing etiquette. Go to our website www.spawnusa.org to download the brochure or send us a self addressed stamped envelope.