Salmon spawning season is underway in Marin County’s Lagunitas Creek and this year, there’s been some rare sightings of certain salmon species. Biologists counted close to half a dozen chum salmon and over a dozen pink salmon in the watershed since September. In normal years, you’d be lucky to find one chum salmon in the watershed. Pink salmon haven’t been seen in this area for decades. Both species normally spawn near Oregon and Washington.
“It’s very unusual,” says Marin Municipal Water District ecologist Eric Ettlinger.
So why are these other species showing up in prime coho salmon territory? Ettlinger says no one really knows why yet. But, he says, some biologists are speculating that the chum and pink traveled so far south in search of food.
“Feeding opportunities could have been poor up north this year,” says Ettlinger. “And instead of these fish swimming all the way back to their natal streams to spawn they smelled fresh water and decided to take a chance and spawn here.”
And it could also mean that the habitat in the Lagunitas Creek watershed is thriving, says Salmon Protection and Watershed Network education specialist Catie Clune.