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After several years in a row with below average rainfall during the typical coho spawning period, this year has finally delivered some much needed rain. This year the trick has been figuring out the windows for optimal conditions to conduct surveys. Until this past week, these survey windows have only been one or two days long in between storm events. However, even with short survey windows, we were able to document coho spawning in Olema, Redwood, and Cheda Creeks.
So far, monitoring crews have observed an increase in coho activity on Olema and Cheda Creeks when compared to the last time this cohort returned to spawn in 2012-2013. Cheda Creek, a small tributary to Lagunitas Creek, had five coho redds, eight live coho, five coho carcasses and six redds not determined to species. The largest number of salmon spawning was observed on Olema Creek in which 50 coho redds, 85 live coho, 28 coho carcasses, and 30 redds not determined to species. This is the largest coho spawning run observed in Olema Creek for over a decade.
The North Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited has two projects in Marin County focused on restoring habitat for the endangered Coho salmon and protected steelhead trout. NBTU is leading the restoration of Devil’s Gulch (part of the Lagunitas Watershed) through grant writing, engineering and on-site restoration work. The second restoration effort provides planting assistance to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in the multi-year restoration of the Redwood Creek Watershed. Please scroll down the page for details.
On Saturday, January 23, NBTU volunteers helped plant willow stakes and build and installing willow fascines to help control erosion of sediment into John West Fork Creek in Point Reyes National Seashore. The control of fine sediment is key to successful spawning of endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead in the creek, a tributary of Olema Creek. Despite the wet and stormy conditions, volunteers helped plant 100 willow stakes and install 56 willow fascines, benefiting John West Fork Creek and about 7 miles of Olema Creek downstream.
Thank you to Jack Barry who organized the volunteers, and to our volunteers, who traveled out to Point Reyes and worked hard on a day of challenging weather!
See below for photos and examples of the work and the effectiveness of willow fascines.
January 15th, 2016 Update
It’s official, in a preliminary, still-need-to-check-our-numbers sort of way…
This year’s coho run is the largest run in nearly a decade! So far this season 269 coho redds have been observed in the watershed, exceeding the total from three years ago. The average going back to 1995 is 250 redds. Plentiful rains have allowed coho to spawn throughout the system, and in fact 2/3 of the spawning this season has occurred in tributary streams. Folks in the San Geronimo Valley haven’t seen this many salmon since the run of 2006.
Surveys this week found 42 new coho redds in Lagunitas Creek, San Geronimo Creek, and Devil’s Gulch. We also saw fewer live fish and a sharp increase in carcasses – a definite sign that the run is coming to an end. Some fresh fish are still making their way upstream, so there’s still time to see some salmon spawning before the run comes to an end later this month.
See the recent history of the watershed's redds here.
Devil's Gulch 2015
North Bay Trout Unlimited has completed a significant project enhancing habitat in Devil’s Gulch, a key tributary to Lagunitas Creek in Marin County, California. Devil’s Gulch is critical habitat for endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead populations along the Central California Coast. NBTU, together with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Dragonfly Consulting, restored woody structure in eight locations along this creek, reversing some of the adverse effects attributable to a history of logging in the area. This project is the latest effort by NBTU in their over 30 years of restoration work in the Lagunitas Creek watershed.
What will this project accomplish? By slowing down flows during periods of rainfall in winter, it provides shelter for fish during peak run-off periods and helps maintain spawning areas. This shelter will also allow juvenile fish to grow larger before they migrate out to sea in the spring. During summer, the woody habitat will result in the creation of pools and cover, keeping the creek cool and allowing fish to hide from predators. Please go to https://vimeo.com/103375891 to learn why large woody debris is so important.
The North Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the coho and steelhead of Devil’s Gulch, are grateful to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Marin Municipal Water District, California State Parks, Dragonfly Consultants, and Doug Gore for their assistance and collaboration in connection with this project; and to the California Department of Fish and Game and Patagonia for their financial support.
Coho and Steelhead Juvenilles From Devil's Gulch
First Adult Release December 2015
NBTU hosted its fifth and final Redwood Creek workday of 2015 on Saturday, November 14th. Twelve NBTU volunteers along with several other volunteers groups, including local tutoring company Sage Educators, split in to three groups. One of the groups removed weed barrier fabric around temporary planting beds as a first-step toward returning the area to its natural state. The two other groups pulled bristly ox tongue, an invasive weed, and cattails around the creek to prepare the area for plating later this winter.
Pictures of the progress made at Redwood Creek since 2009 can be found on the National Park Service website (PDF Link). There is also a map showing what the area looked like before the restoration began and what it will look like after (PDF Link). If you are interested in participating in Redwood Creek or other restoration projects, please send an email to Info@NBTU.org.
Redwood Creek Workday – November 14, 2015
I received an email today regarding a multi-agency collaborative proposal for the temporary captive rearing of Redwood Creek coho salmon. The plan is to collect up to 200 juveniles during the summers of 2014, 2015 and 2016, with the initial collection date being Aug. 13, 2014. The juveniles would be reared at the Don Clausen/Warm Springs Hatchery at Lake Sonoma and released as mature adults in the winters of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
These actions are necessitated by the prolonged severe drought and past poor ocean-rearing conditions in California which are placing many endangered coho salmon populations at increased risk of extinction throughout the central coast. Recent annual adult coho abundance in Redwood Creek is below 10 individuals in two brood-years and below 50 in the third brood-year. Juvenile coho abundance in 2014 is estimated below 200. Without captive rearing, there is a high risk that Redwood Creek coho will completely disappear in the very near future.
The president of the newly formed Truckee TU Chapter Stefan McLeod's impassioned testimony to the Lahontan Water Board (LWB), along with NBTU's past president John Regan's many years of bird dogging, has led to the final chapter in the fight to save the Paiute Cutthroat. NBTU began field trips to the Silver King Creek area over twenty years ago and, along with the CA Dept. of Fish & Game (now the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife), found a solution to saving this species. In 2014, the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife rotenoned a protion of Silver King Creek to eliminate non-native fish which would interbreed with the wild Paiute.
Paiute Cutthroat Trout - Oncorhynchus clarki seleniris