Kennedy Creek

Posted by Ken Campbell November 6, 2008 0 Comment 609 views

There are five species of salmon that call the Northwest home: chinoook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum. Most of these species are in decline – some of them at historically low levels – and it’s hard to be optimistic about their long-term chances. One of them, however, the chum, is actually doing quite well, due to a unique set of circumstances that the other species don’t enjoy.

Chum salmon, once they hatch and wriggle free of the gravel bed in which they were born, leave for salt water in very short order. Many other species, such as coho and Chinook, can spend a year or more in their natal streams, which leaves them vulnerable to all sorts of environmental stresses. Chums can spawn in seasonal creeks, which gives them a wider range; since they spawn in late fall and early winter, the next generation can be well out to sea before their streams dry up in the warmer months.

This adaptation means that chum are the most plentiful of the anadramous fish that return to Northwest rivers and streams, and there are some researchers who think that the runs are at historic highs. A contrast to the sad shape in which other salmon runs find themselves. Close to 500,000 chum are expected to return to local waters this winter. On a good year, up to a million make the trip.

Kennedy Creek, at the head of Totten Inlet in southern Puget Sound, is one of the most productive chum runs in the state. During the ten-year period between 1992 and 2001, more than 40,000 spawning fish came back here for their final wild ride. It’s a short run of a creek, just a little over two miles from salt water to an impassable falls, so all these fish are concentrated in a relatively small stretch of water.

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