The onset of autumn brings many changes to the natural world: cooler, wetter weather, shorter days, slower plant growth and the falling of brightly coloured leaves.
It also signals the return of salmon to their natal streams to start a new generation.
Millard Creek and its main tributary, Piercy Creek, support small populations of pink, chum and coho salmon.
Pink salmon are the earliest with spawning in the lower reaches of Millard Creek from September through mid-October. Chum and coho are later, with migration into the creeks and subsequent spawning occurring from mid-October through December.
Like pinks, chum tend to spawn in the lower section of the creek whereas coho move further upstream, spawning wherever suitable gravel can be found throughout the watershed.
The Millard-Piercy Watershed Stewards is a volunteer group dedicated to preserving and enhancing the watershed for fish and other forms of wildlife.
This year, the group is undertaking surveys to determine the distribution and relative abundance of salmon throughout the watershed with emphasis on coho.
Several teams of two people will walk sections of the creek weekly to record the numbers of salmon and redds (spawning “nests”) observed. They will also be on the lookout for any potential blockages to upstream migration.
Coho are notoriously difficult to count because of their habit of hiding close to stream banks under logs and roots and due to frequent high-water turbidity resulting from autumn rain. Consequently, it is possible to obtain only a rough index of abundance. However, this information will enable the most important spawning areas to be identified.
Knowledge of salmon spawning distribution and abundance is helpful in providing recommendations on areas requiring the most protection from developments within the watershed.
As our volunteers are not able to cover all parts of the watershed, we are asking for the public’s help in providing information on adult salmon. If you observe salmon within the Millard-Piercy watershed this autumn, please forward this information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always looking for more enthusiastic volunteers, so if you are interested in becoming involved, let us know.
Editor’s note: Robin Harrison is the vice-president of the
Millard-Piercy Watershed Stewards.