By George Snyder, Sonoma West Staff Writer (12/17/08)
SALMON CREEK – Up until a few days ago the last time anybody spotted salmon in Salmon Creek was back in the mid 1990’s, when the fish finally succumbed to habitat destruction and drought.
This being an era of promised change, however, the dozen or so biologists, volunteers and the local land owner were on hand to witness the release of 300 mature coho salmon into the creek where it runs through Chanslor Ranch north of Bodega Bay.
The hope is the release of the spawning size fish will change Salmon Creek from a salmon-less stream into one that has some, particularly since California coho, or silver salmon, continue to maintain a thin margin of survival despite efforts to save them.
California Fish and Game supervising senior biologist Bob Coey and DFG colleague Gail Seymour, say the extensive community interest in and restoration of the creeks watershed over the past several years is making the possibility of re-establishing a salmon run in Salmon Creek, particularly a coho salmon run, a reality.
“We’ve got pretty good habitat in Fay Creek,” said Seymour of an important upstream tributary. “There’s been a lot of assessment and restoration work that has occurred through collaboration with landowners and the agencies.”
That work, according to Lisa Hulette, executive director of the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, has included community volunteers, willing landowners as well as support from local, state and federal agencies, including California Fish and Game, the State Coastal Conservancy, the California Water Resources Control Board, the Community Foundation, the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and the Occidental-based Prunuske Chatham Inc., restoration firm, among others.
According to California Trout Unlimited, coho salmon were once found in coastal Pacific streams from Monterey Bay to Alaska. According to TU, California had an estimated 500,000 coho salmon in the 1940’s a number now down to about 5,000 fish.