By Dennis Hinton and Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Last year about this time, “Big Wally” closed the spawning season by hanging out in lower Fauntleroy Creek for two weeks. The 7-to-8-pound male coho was likely waiting (in vain) for a mate.
This year, the last of four spawners spotted in the creek was “Little Jill,” a small hatchery-released female. Collectively known as “jacks,” these immature coho come back to fresh water after only one year at sea instead of the standard two.
At about 15″ long, Jill was first thought to be a cutthroat in to feed on fresh salmon eggs. But after she zipped up and down the fish ladder for a few days, volunteers saw that her adipose fin was clipped – the way hatcheries mark smolts when they release them. Watchers last saw her November 2nd, showing signs of deterioration common to spawners.
Volunteer watcher Mark Ahlness claimed the first spawner sightings October 27 – a 3-to-4-pound female and a smaller, red-sided male. The little one was soon a carcass fluttering in the flow. A third fish came in before Jill; at least one other was spotted at the mouth, but watchers didn’t find it in the creek. No fish were seen venturing farther upstream than the fish ladder (just across Fauntleroy Way SW from the beach). Watchers saw no indication of spawning.
Given favorable high tides and creek conditions, watchers continued their surveying until yesterday (Sunday, November 19th), with no further sightings.
The watch involved a dozen volunteers this year. About three dozen visitors stopped by to check out the fish and habitat.
Previous five years’ totals: 7 in 2016, 0 in 2015, 19 in 2014, 0 in 2013, 274 in 2012.