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.”
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.