by Eric Ettlinger
The deluge we received earlier in the month (more than ten inches of rain over eight days) raised Lagunitas Creek stream flows to their highest level since 2006. On the downside this may have scoured some early coho redds (and washed the eggs away), but on the upside the high water seems to have cleaned much of the streambed of accumulated fine sediments. In many places the clean gravel looks like a blank canvas on which coho are now creating their redds.
Before I wax poetic on all the wonderful things the flood did for the creek (you should see the debris jams!), let me get to the fish numbers. In the last two weeks coho were seen spawning throughout the creek, and in numbers not seen in six years. MMWD biologists counted 66 coho redds, including 39 in Lagunitas Creek, 15 in accessible areas of San Geronimo Creek, and 12 in Devil’s Gulch. We also counted 130 live coho and found four carcasses (including the impressive male pictured here). To date we’ve counted 160 live coho and 80 redds, which is above average for mid-December (click here to see chart). This run is shaping up to be a huge improvement over the parent generation, which spawned three years ago. Only 67 coho were seen that entire season. This year’s coho are unlikely to match the runs of their grandparents (2006-07) or great-grandparents (2003-04), but it’s been a long time since a Lagunitas Creek coho run could be described as even “above average.”
Other notable observations from recent surveys included a school of 14 coho holding in a pool in San Geronimo Creek, and possibly the largest coho redd I’ve ever seen, measuring 27’ by 19’. Mid-December is usually the peak period for coho spawning in Lagunitas Creek, with spawning tapering off through January. Typically two-thirds of coho spawn after the peak week, so it’s likely that many more coho have yet to spawn and there will be plenty of opportunities to see them do it.