FOLLOWUP: Another near-record year for salmon spawners in Fauntleroy Creek – with other records set

(Many decaying spawner carcasses are adding nutrients to the creek. Photo by Tom Trulin)

By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog

For the second year in a row, volunteer watchers tallied an exceptional number of coho spawners – 254! – in Fauntleroy Creek. This count exceeded last year’s 244 by 10, putting it in the No. 2 position behind 2012’s all-time high of 274.

Volunteers saw the first spawners in modern memory in 1994 and began organized watches in 1999. This year’s watch ran Oct. 16 – Nov. 22, with fish seen October 25 – November 15.

Why such a high number two years in a row? Veteran creek steward Dennis Hinton gives a lot of credit to human intervention.

“Three out of the last four years, volunteers have had to relocate drift logs at the creek mouth to ensure spawners could get in from Fauntleroy Cove. Most years, we’ve left them alone in the belief that they would float at high tide. This year’s log jam was especially tight, however. After we got the necessary state permit, Mark Sears led a work party in mid October to clear a path, then he and Tom Trulin checked the logs daily. This diligence paid off.”

(This spawning pair displaced eggs from an earlier redd to build their own. Photo by Mark Sears)

Another likely factor, Dennis said, was that this was an especially good year for salmon returning to Puget Sound. A super pod of orcas (J, K, and L) was in the area for several days and they would not have been here without finding ample fish to eat.

Other factors: High tides, paired with low barometric pressure, gave spawners the lift they needed to enter the creek. And precipitation was sufficient to flush the creek so that they could smell fresh water.

The spawner number was not the only count of note.

“We had a real uptick in public awareness and volunteerism this year,” Dennis said. “More than two dozen watchers took turns documenting spawners and talking with visitors. Judy Pickens and Phil Sweetland opened their property so that an exceptional 440-plus people of all ages could get to creek level.”

Watchers noted where they saw spawning, and volunteers will be checking those locations this winter for “home hatch” fry to emerge from their gravel redds. They also noted a lot of fingerlings from last year’s spawning as well as cutthroat trout in for the thousands of coho eggs displaced when late spawners dug out the redds of early spawners.

To learn more about the creek, current volunteer opportunities, and the watershed stewardship fund for habitat maintenance, visit

2 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Another near-record year for salmon spawners in Fauntleroy Creek - with other records set"

  • Fauntleroy Fairies November 22, 2022 (6:52 pm)

    What a great bit of news– thanks to Judy Pickens and the Fauntleroy Watershed Council along with the community of volunteers who participated in the count. What a blessing to witness these coho returning to spawn! Thank you!The 254 fish returning is amazing — such a small creek — and it does have a lot to do with good ocean conditions. The watershed council has been securing permits to clear the wood from clogging up the reach along the beach south of the ferry dock for many years. Notably in 2019 and 2020 WDFW also provided an HPA permit to move the logs, but the 2020 count was only two salmon. was when we had a warm “blob” of water off our Pacific Coast — and that makes it hard for salmon to survive. are so lucky to have the coho back, and look forward to the ferry improvements that will rebuild the dock. The upgraded facility will have fewer pilings, farther apart, so the driftwood will transport north with the drift cell to Lincoln Park, likely alleviating the log jams that back up against the dock and clog the creek.While we’re grateful to have the salmon return, there is still so much to do to recover Chinook and the Southern Resident Killer Whales that depend on them.Thank you Fauntleroy Watershed Council for all you do to cultivate the future salmon stewards. What a gift!!

Sorry, comment time is over.