by Eric Ettlinger
MMWD and National Park Service biologists took advantage of a break in the rain to survey 14 miles of Lagunitas Creek and its tributaries on Wednesday. Flows in Lagunitas Creek had receded after peaking Monday night, but the water was still somewhat high and murky. Despite less than ideal conditions, a total of 55 coho salmon and 30 redds were seen. These were the highest numbers of salmon and redds seen since 2007. Fish were observed spawning through all of the surveyed creeks, and most of the fish and redds were seen in San Geronimo Creek. This is good news since coho eggs and fry are less vulnerable to floods in the tributaries than in the main stem of Lagunitas Creek.
Another encouraging observation made during these surveys was the unusually high number of jacks (small male salmon). Of the 55 coho observed, 17 (30 percent) were jacks. Since jacks return to their natal streams one year earlier than most of their siblings, they are often used to predict salmon runs one year in advance. Over the last 14 years, large numbers of jacks have generally preceded above-average runs of coho in Lagunitas Creek. It will be interesting to see if jacks continue to be abundant through the rest of this spawning season, and whether this may herald a larger coho run next year.
The photo I’ve included shows a female coho digging a redd while two males vie for her attention. I took the photo from far away, so you may have to take my word for it that what looks like a dark shadow next to the pink female and another shadow next to the log are the two male salmon. The area of lighter-colored gravel in front of the log is the redd the female has excavated.