The Coho Experience (Plus an Update on Numbers!)

Trying to spot the elusive coho salmon is like searching for shooting stars in a mildly light-polluted environment. You know they’re there, and occasionally you will spot one just out of the corner of your eye. Sometimes, you might even see a huge one flash across the sky right in front of your eyes. It even comes with the same skill set: patiently focusing your eyes in one spot for at least twenty minutes until you see something.

I was lucky enough that my first coho sighting found me at a much more advantaged viewpoint: knee deep in the creek, wearing waders as I searched diligently for redds. This was the moment that everything began to make sense for me– the redd, the beat up adult spawner, the action of spawning–it all became reality, more than what I had read and learned about. I trudged through the creek for quite some time, joined by my Americorps partner, Diana and Angie from the National Park Service, becoming more discouraged with each step that this might not be the day for my first adult coho sighting. Then came the first redd, which was clear as day but extraordinarily huge. No surprise this gargantuan redd was accompanied by a very large, white-tailed female–my first coho sighting. We watched as she worked on her redd, showing off her silvery-pink coloring.
There is a very specific joy that comes over you when you have a sighting, and I also equate that feeling to that of seeing a shooting star flash across the sky. You feel fortunate, excited, happy, and a little bit of relief that the patience paid off.

I find that people have a natural curiosity about salmonids. They lead a life of mystery to us; who knows how they find their way back to their natal stream? We do know that it’s special and unique, and that their presence is a very important indicator of the health of our fresh water environment. I wanted to include a little update in this entry for all you fish enthusiasts, as well as those of you with that natural curiosity for our fishy neighbors. As of last week there have been 136 coho adults and 71 redds identified in surveys of Lagunitas and San Geronimo creeks, and some of their tributaries. I have been told that these numbers exceed those of the last two years, which is very encouraging but we all know the more the merrier!

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