There have been solid salmon returns in North Delta so far this winter, according to the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers.
In an email to the North Delta Reporter, streamkeeper Deborah Jones said there were 192 spawner sightings in the creek in November and December of 2018.
“The actual number of spawners is probably closer to 160 as it’s very difficult to avoid duplicate sightings of the same fish. Still, a good turnout!” Jones said in her email. “And stream monitors no doubt missed counting other fish due to murky water (caused by stormwater runoff and stream bank erosion during rains) as well as inaccessibility of some stretches of creek.”
Jones said coho spawners vastly outnumbered chum, despite large releases of chum fry by local school children in recent years.
One possible explanation, she said, is fishing boats and nets at the mouth of Cougar Creek that were observed by a stream monitor in October, just when the chum would have been arriving. (Coho arrive later.)
“If this indeed proves to be a reasonable explanation, we’ll be seeking to collaborate with fishers to let sufficient chum into the creek in coming years, so that a healthy chum run can be established,” Jones said. “Conditions in Cougar Creek should be ideal for chum, assuming ocean conditions don’t send all fish belly-up that is.”
Noting stream monitor Bob Scanlon estimates there are approximately 40 redds (i.e. shallow nests) in lower Cougar Creek — and countless more are in the canyon — Jones asked that local dog owners keep their furry friends out of the creek until May 1 as redds and newly-hatched salmon are easily destroyed.
“After May 1st, we know it’s nearly impossible to keep a hot black Lab from wading in,” Jones said.
Channel 3 in lower Cougar Creek, where last year the Streamkeepers installed rock weirs to create additional spawning habitat, was the hands-down “winner” for numbers of spawners, Jones said.
Meanwhile, there were 56 salmon sightings in Cougar Canyon, including seven athletic coho spawners that swam all the way up to Creekside Channel just downstream from Nicholson Road.
Another 14 spawners were sighted in Ravinder Channel, immediately below the new Chelsea Gate development, and Jones said the Streamkeepers will be monitoring this stretch carefully in future years in hopes that the loss of many large trees, combined with an increased human presence, won’t have a negative impact on channel health.
“The developer’s rain gardens and new native plantings along the back edge of Chelsea Gate — if properly installed & maintained — will help mitigate impacts,” Jones said.