Some Information About Coho Salmon

The Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) also known as silver, is a very popular fish in Puget Sound. The average size is 6-12 lbs. and can reach 31 lbs. Coho Salmon spawn in the Fall.

This species uses coastal streams and tributaries, and is often present in small neighborhood streams. Coho can even be found in urban settings if their needs of cold, clean, year-round water are met.

Coho spawn in small coastal streams and the tributaries of larger rivers. They prefer areas of mid-velocity water with small to medium sized gravels. Because they use small streams with limited space, they must use many such streams to successfully reproduce, which is why coho can be found in virtually every small coastal stream with a year-round flow.

Returning coho often gather at the mouths of streams and wait for the water flow to rise, such as after a rain storm, before heading upstream. The higher flows and deeper water enable the fish to pass obstacles, such as logs across the stream or beaver dams, that would otherwise be impassable.

Coho have a very regular life history. They are deposited in the gravel as eggs in the fall, emerge from the gravel the next spring, and in their second spring go to sea, about 18 months after being deposited. Coho fry are usually found in the pools of small coastal streams and the tributaries of larger rivers.

Bob Melcher reported the following on the 2011 salmon run for Big Beef Creek:

The dept contacted me yesterday. The news is not good. Lack of fall rains kept the creek flow low so the coho stayed in the canal. The price of coho was up for the gill netters and purse seiners, $3.25 per lb. Therefore they netted real hard. As of yesterday, only 145 coho were sent up our way. With low water in the creek it is a real tough journey for them to reach Morgans Marsh and spawn. All along the way they are the target of 2 legged and 4 legged predators.

In my 13 years of involvement with the dept and reporting I am sad to say that it looks like the end is in sight for the Big Beef "native" coho salmon run.... From counts that averaged 5,000 to under 200 in my 13 years makes it obvious. The decline in numbers is like a step ladder each year the counts get lower. Makes you wonder why the State is spending millions removing dams to improve salmon habitat while allowing netters to destroy a natural resource, our salmon

Bob Melcher reported the following on the 2010 salmon run for Big Beef Creek:

“The last count for 2010 was 150. The main runs were over so can't expect much improvement. The news was bad for "all" Puget Sound and Hood Canal. The return of silvers or coho to the Ballard Locks was one of the worst on record. The hatchery at Issaquah had their worst return ever. Their returns are around 15,000 coho. This year they had 450 adults return. It's sad when we don't get a return on our native coho but when a major hatchery gets 450 returns it is obvious that more than nets are at work. The biologists say something is happening in the open ocean. Research is being done in regard to the 2010 El Nino and ocean upwelling causing major temperature changes of the water that could be killing the young salmon.”

Bob Schumacher has been in contact with the county.  Long Lake and our lake are dying.  If we do not do something soon, we will not have a lake.  He offered to have someone from the county come speak to us about the problem and solutions.  Also, Bob S said that a rake would cost around $10,000 and he proposed we purchase a rake by 2012.  We want to be able to rake the lake by spring of 2012.  Karen seconded.

2009 Count - The fisheries department recorded 933 coho or silver salmon for the 2009 salmon run. While this is a very low count in comparison to runs of 8 to 12 years ago, it is 3 times better than last year. The department also checks the young salmon or smolt as they head downstream to salt water. They will return as spawning adults in 2 to 3 years. The smolt count was high for the last two years so hopefully we will have some good returns in the near future.

2008 Count - Bob Melcher, the Fishway Team Leader, received the final count for the coho salmon run for 2008 in our area.  It started out bad early in the run and did not get much better. The final count was only 425 fish. The only fish coming up now are a few steelhead and some cut throat trout. Most of them spawn down stream and do not get this far.

In November, Bob received some information from David Craft in regard to the problem. He was working on a tug boat near Bangor. He counted 59 purse seiners harvesting fish. This was in addition to the tribal gill netters. Today after receiving the final count, Bob asked the state employee about the seiners. Most are home ported in Seattle. They are non-tribal and are licensed to fish both Alaska and Washington waters. Their reason for being in the canal was to harvest fall run chum salmon from  the hatcheries. Bob wanted to know "why are they netting so far from the hatchery". There is no restriction in  that regard....

As we all know, the nets and seiners take all fish, hatchery, wild native coho and chinook, steelhead, etc. The current laws for both non-tribal and tribal treaties are not working. The decline in the fisheries resource is a battle zone between politicians, tribal, sport fishermen, and commercial fishing. It has been going on for years at all levels and still no resolve.

                     Bob Melcher
                     Fishway team leader