Juvenile Coho Found on Pine Gulch for the Second Summer in a Row

By Watershed Stewards Program Corpsmember Natale Urquhart, San Francisco Bay Area Network Salmonid Monitoring Program

July 2022 - For the second summer in a row, our San Francisco Bay Area Network fisheries crew observed juvenile coho salmon in Pine Gulch Creek. These juveniles are the offspring of spawners that returned to Pine Gulch this last winter.

Small, silvery fish in a measuring tray. It measures in at 2.75 inches long, from snout to tail.
This year, we've counted over 300 coho in Pine Gulch Creek. That's the highest raw count we have recorded in Pine Gulch since monitoring began.

NPS / Watershed Stewards Program Corpsmember Tara Blake

In our last blog post about Pine Gulch, we named healthy juvenile rearing conditions as one of the key factors to successful recolonization of coho salmon in this creek. One of the ways that we monitor these conditions is through habitat surveys. Each summer our crews walk up the creek with rods to measure water depth, measuring tapes, and a mobile satellite database to record and measure every wetted part of the creek with the potential to accommodate juvenile coho. Once the entire creek is surveyed, we will have a map of all the habitat available for the juvenile salmon. Following the habitat surveys, we will snorkel 25% of pools (deep slow sections of creek) and 10% of flatwaters (shallow slow sections of creek) to determine species presence and abundance. After that, we will catch the fish using nets and an electrofisher so that we can weigh and measure them to ensure the fish are at a healthy size.

Team of three people standing in a creek beneath towering trees. The person in the middle carries an electrofisher—a large backpack connected to a rod dipped in the water—while the other two hold nets just above the water's surface.
Following surveys to map salmonid habitat in Pine Gulch, we survey for fish presence and abundance, then use nets and an electrofisher so that we can weigh and measure the fish to see if they are a healthy size.

NPS / Watershed Stewards Program Corpsmember Tara Blake

Thus far, conditions look promising for these young salmonids. We have observed them higher up in the creek than we have for over 15 years. Last year, our surveyors only observed fish in the lower mile and a half of the creek. This year, we are seeing over 300 coho distributed up to 5-miles upstream. This is also the highest raw count we have recorded in Pine Gulch Creek since monitoring began. Those that survive over the summer and through the winter will migrate out to sea next spring as smolts. Hopefully several will return again as adults to keep the coho population alive on Pine Gulch.

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Last updated: July 26, 2022