Chum salmon spawning to begin soon

viewing: Local trail gives good view to see 700,000-1 million fish

jdodge@theolympian.comOctober 25, 2012 

The prime time for seeing chum salmon spawning in South Sound streams is fast approaching with state fisheries managers predicting runs ranging from average to robust.

Results from the early commercial and test fisheries in the marine waters south of Seattle suggest a total returning population of 700,000 to 1 million chum salmon in South Sound, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. That compares to a 10-year average in the South Sound area of 740,000 returning fish, he said.

The forecast bodes well for public visitors next month to South Sound’s prime area to view chum salmon in their spawning habitat, the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail.

With the recent change to cool and wet fall weather, a few chum salmon are migrating through Totten Inlet to the mouth of Kennedy Creek, said Lance Winecka, executive director of the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group. The number of fish in the stream should shoot up noticeably in the days ahead, peaking in mid-November.

Each year, chum ranging in number from 15,000 to 60,000 fish return to Kennedy Creek to spawn.

The trail opens to the public on Nov. 3 and remains open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 25.

The trail is also open those same hours on Nov. 12, which is Veterans Day, and Nov. 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Now in its 14th year, the half-mile trail off state Highway 101 is a partnership between the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, Mason Conservation District and Taylor Shellfish, which owns the property and allows public access in November based on a 20-year lease with SPSSEG.

Some 5,000 people visit the trail and its multiple viewing stations annually to witness chum salmon spawning behavior. The trail is a popular field trip destination for schools in the South Sound area.

The viewing stations also provide information about the important role large woody debris and salmon carcasses play in the stream ecology.

An underwater fish camera operated by volunteer trail guides will also offer a close-up view of the spawning chum salmon in the stream.

Something new this year is a salmon trail open house 11 a.m.-2 p.m., featuring chowder, coffee and hot cocoa available for a donation. Money raised will be used to support operation and maintenance of the trail.

To visit the trail northbound from Olympia, turn west on Old Olympic Highway between mileposts 357 and 358. Go less than one mile on a gravel road then turn left on a gravel road marked “Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail.” Southbound from Shelton, turn west on Old Olympic Highway at milepost 356.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

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