Another progress report: Fauntleroy Creek salmon set record

November 5, 2012 at 2:22 am | In Fauntleroy, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 16 Comments

(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB)
Never mind counting votes. That whiteboard holds the count that mattered the most in West Seattle this weekend – at Fauntleroy Creek. One week after the salmon-welcoming ceremony that included the then-sad news that only seven spawners had approached, and none had made it past a hungry otter – the turnabout is huge.

This is already the biggest season since spawners returned to the creek after a “fishway” replaced a culvert a decade-plus ago:

As of Sunday evening, reported creek steward/volunteer Judy Pickens (above, with visitors Mira Ellis, 3, and Peggy Rubens-Ellis), at least 238 spawners had been counted – exponentially more than the past few years, and by far beating the 2001 record of 167. Here’s what it’s all about:

Those are salmon eggs – the hope for the next generation. More of WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams‘ images from the creek this weekend, as the update continues ahead:

Though there’s no official public place to get up close and personal with the spawners, dozens of visitors found their way to the creekside, like Redwood Stephens and 3-year-old son Torin:

For onlookers, it’s mesmerizing. For the salmon, it’s a mission:

Among those observing again this season – volunteer biologist Steev Ward:

The season is not even half over so far, making the turnout all the more extraordinary compared to the previous two – 14 coho were counted in 2011, zero the year before.

Each spring, hundreds of students visit the creek to release fry they have raised at school – more than 2,600 fry last year. And throughout the year, there is volunteer work in the watershed to care for the habitat. One of the weekend visitors in the next photo reminds us how the creek and the nearby Sound are intertwined:

That’s Mark Sears, who among other things is known for researching Puget Sound’s resident orcas – who eat salmon. So no salmon, no orcas – though their trip to the creek puts these fish out of whales’ reach.

Salmon watch usually continues until Thanksgiving – early this year (November 22nd), but still more than 2 weeks away … and the tally continues.

16 Comments

  1. Awesome!

    Comment by Rick — 4:46 am November 5, 2012 #

  2. Couldn’t see much from the viewpoint yesterday due to the leaves still on the trees, but you sure can hear them as they make their way up the creek.

    Comment by WB — 7:12 am November 5, 2012 #

  3. Recently moved from the Middle West to Seattle and saw salmon for the first time in the creek over the weekend. What a great experience!

    Comment by Joe P. — 7:33 am November 5, 2012 #

  4. Way to go Steev, Judy and all the other volunteers in this effort. Thank you for your persistence.

    It is my understanding that coho like rain; last week’s downpour likely helped trigger their movement. Rain fills the creek to a depth they need and soothes them as they make their final journey.

    Peeps – get yourselves down to the creek and say thank you. I found it best to park on 45th a block north off Fauntleroy and walk a couple of blocks).

    To observe this profound natural event up close is a gift and it is very impressive. Our Native American neighbors – the Duwamish tribe – honor these annual runs in stories. I also suggest another worthy outing is to T107 Park on West Marginal. There is a lovely series of sculptural art honoring the salmon through Duwamish story.

    These iconic salmon runs throughout Cascadia are critical to our glorious natural world. Without them? God forbid.

    Comment by westseattledood — 7:56 am November 5, 2012 #

  5. Why would you take the eggs out of the water?

    Comment by Gary Erikson — 7:57 am November 5, 2012 #

  6. Spectacular coverage of a spectacular event. Thanks to all.
    comment by Dennis H.

    Comment by dennis hinton — 8:01 am November 5, 2012 #

  7. I believe they are used to make hatchery fish that the students raise to supplement the natural spawners

    Comment by Nick — 8:22 am November 5, 2012 #

  8. Those stray eggs wouldn’t survive to hatch. The ones that hatch are buried in the redd under fines and gravel. Sea run cutthroat trout scavenge those stray eggs and harrass the spawners.

    Comment by Tom — 8:43 am November 5, 2012 #

  9. Is the creek on public property? My wife and I went to see the salmon yesterday after seeing a few articles on this site. We couldn’t figure out how to get down to the creek until a nice gentleman offered to let us walk down with him. He said “It’s private property, but they’ll let us down.” So, it’s not clear to me if there is a public way to get down to the creek or not. Everyone was very friendly, either way, and we really enjoyed watching the salmon make their way up the creek.

    Comment by Jason von Nieda — 10:19 am November 5, 2012 #

  10. The creek is on public property but I am not aware of any public access to it off of Fauntleroy. I too was allowed to get down to it by the very nice homeowner whom lives right next to it. What a beautiful spot..Well I grew up a stone throw away from this lovely creek on the beach off of Fauntleroy south of the ferry dock. It is mesmorizing watching the salmon return to spawn. Some are already dieing. It is a tough creek to manuever for those fish. The fish are a good size too. My dad is taking my son to see them after school today.

    Comment by Kim M — 1:45 pm November 5, 2012 #

  11. Thanks for the answers.

    Comment by Gary — 4:30 pm November 5, 2012 #

  12. Fascinating. My daughter’s 2nd grade class released salmon here and this is so exciting to see the full life cycle first hand. can’t wait to take my girls down this weekend to witness it all unfold. thanks for posting the photos.

    Comment by westseattlemom — 9:42 pm November 5, 2012 #

  13. I stopped there this weekend and thanks to Judy (the homeowner) was able to take my 4 and 5 year olds there to see their first salmon. It was amazing to see so many fish so close up! A fantastic city experience.

    Comment by Glenn — 7:41 am November 6, 2012 #

  14. In answer to the egg question, we netted a few stray eggs so folks could see and feel them. With so many spawners in this small creek, later fish dig out the redds of earlier fish because they want the same spot. Then those loose eggs are lost as far as hatch goes but become valuable nutrients in the habitat, whether for cutthroat trout, birds on the beach, or just to break down in the creek.

    Comment by Judy P — 7:55 am November 6, 2012 #

  15. WOW! What an incredible sight and accomplishment. My accolades to all who have spent time, energy and effort into restoring the “run” at Fauntleroy – one of my favorite parks in the Seattle system. Access – there is lots of public access in the park, just off of Barton, east of the church, look for the rainbow sign. But you may not see the spawners there – best place is accross from the Fauntelroy Ferry terminal – park in the Lincoln park south lot and walk the three blocks. The overlook is on the east side of the street. Check out their webpage at: Fauntleroyhttp://www.fauntleroywatershed.org/park/parks_reports_studies.html
    WSBlog – thanks for the great photos and coverage (although I can’t be there, I can still experience it!) Mil Gracias, Christina Gallegos

    Comment by Christina Gallegos — 9:09 am November 6, 2012 #

  16. It is hard to get up close to the salmon without going on private property but you can go to the lookout point and see them with binoculars, and hear them splashing! To get to the lookout point, go across the street from the Fauntleroy ferry, go up the stairs and turn right.

    Comment by Sarah — 9:55 am November 6, 2012 #

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