Coho Salmon Migrate in Record Numbers, Don't Celebrate Yet

Jul 15, 2014

Coho salmon smolt
Credit Marin Municipal Water District

Can the drought be good for fish? Maybe now, but not for long. This year's lack of winter rain has wreaked havoc on many corners of the state: from fruit orchards to feed lots. On today's North Bay Report we examine a rare instance where dry conditions seem to have helped endangered Coho salmon. But the good news is unlikely to last.

"This story should really be seen as the silver lining in an otherwise bad situation," says Eric Ettlinger, aquatic ecologist for the Marin Municipal Water District. "Up and down the coast the drought has had really dramatic impacts on salmon populations. Just in this one creek there was an unexpected benefit." 

Gregory Andrew, Fishery Program Manager and Eric Ettlinger, Aquatic Ecologist check a trap in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed to count coho smolts headed for the ocean.
Credit Marin Municipal Water District

Ettlinger believes that the lack of rain kept juvenile coho in the upper tributaries for longer than normal, keeping them out of the lower watershed. Typically habitat in the lower watershed is poor. But this year the fish were not kept there long, they moved quickly from the upper reaches out to the ocean. 

The Marin Municipal Water District is seeking to increase and improve habitat in the lower Lagunitas Creek watershed, with support from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The decision on their grant application is pending.