Spawning season ends in Fauntleroy Creek. Here’s how many salmon showed up

(Photos by Tom Trulin. Above, one of the last of this year’s 34 spawners)

By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog

After two years of amazingly high numbers of coho spawners in Fauntleroy Creek (244 in 2021, 254 in 2022), this season’s 34 isn’t all that impressive unless, like veteran counter Dennis Hinton, you take the long view.

“Since the first spawners in modern history arrived in 1994, we’ve had 13 years with 10 or fewer, including some years with none,” he said. “A glut of fish draws a lot of attention, but when that happens in this small creek, late arrivals dig the redds of earlier fish and we lose hatch potential.”

(Veteran salmon-watch volunteers Pete Draughon, Dennis Hinton, and Mark Sears)

On October 22, 20 volunteers began watching the spawning reach in the lower creek during the five hours after high tide. Mark Sears led a special cadre of volunteers to relocate drift logs on the beach to ensure spawners could reach the mouth of the creek.

Watchers recorded the first robust spawner on November 4 and the last a week later. They also recorded two cutthroat trout in to snag what salmon eggs they could.

Harbor seals and other predators in Fauntleroy Cove were especially active eaters this year. Most carcasses above the spawning reach soon disappeared, likely in the jaws of raccoons.

By November 18 when the watch ended, watchers had invited at least 88 visitors down to creek level from the fish-ladder viewpoint across from the ferry terminal. Another 136 came during an “open creek” on November 12 to talk salmon and habitat.

If creek conditions continue to be favorable, eggs will hatch late January/early February, and fry will emerge from the gravel a few weeks later. Area schools will get eyed hatchery eggs in early January to rear and release as fry in May through the Salmon in the Schools program.

6 Replies to "Spawning season ends in Fauntleroy Creek. Here's how many salmon showed up"

  • Jeff November 21, 2023 (9:27 am)

    254 to…34? Yikes. I read the article but still… wow. That’s bad. 

  • Judy November 21, 2023 (10:52 am)

    Thanks for your concern, Jeff, but 34 is a very good fit for the spawning reach that this small creek provides.  Without heavy predation in the cove, we might have documented twice that number.  Many if not most of our spawners every year were released by hatcheries and so do not have a creek to return to.  The fact that they choose this creek says a lot about the habitat we’ve worked for nearly 30 years to improve.

    • Southwest Branch Librarian November 21, 2023 (4:18 pm)

      This is amazing context and really helpful to understand, Judy! Thank you for sharing, and thank you to WSB for covering this.  Good news is really needed right now.

    • Erik Pedersen November 22, 2023 (8:03 am)

      Do you know of any restoration done to Salmon Creek in Burien? As a kid growing up my childhood buddies and I spent many days there exploring & playing in this?/then fantastic greenbelt. One thing I especially remember was the abundance of native cutthroat. We used to catch our lunch and cook it up over a Sword fern fire. As I got older I noticed a “high profile” contractor built mansion below the sewer plant and was “allowed” $$$ to re-channel the creek where it flowed through the mansion grounds.If restoration work is performed here I would like to volunteer….I miss those days of Cutthroat and the large schools of Pile perch and Purple stripe perch that schooled in the creeks outfall into the Sound

  • Larry Scott November 22, 2023 (7:36 am)

    I grew up in WS in the 50-60. Fishing was my thing. Been involved with river and creek spawing for 50 yrs. This little creek is doing awesome. Year to yr, due to ocean number and conditions, change our return counts dramatically. These number are great. Keep up the good work, the salmon need our help.

  • Judy November 22, 2023 (12:06 pm)

    Erik, I’m checking about Salmon Creek.  You will learn something by simply googling it.  It has been fraught for years, especially after the mansion came in.  If I find a specific contact, I’ll put it in another comment.

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