A New Season begins – The 2013 Maloney Creek Salmon Run

Report for October 14, 2013

Today Maloney Creek is at a moderate flow level. There are a few salmon in it but the main spawning activity has not yet begun. We have seen the creek ecology change through its spring and summer seasons, until now the main Coho spawning season is upon us again. In the spring there were lots of fish fry around the root wads planted for habitat improvement.  Obviously these root wads are doing their job well. (It will be interesting to see what the return is from this generation two or three years from now.) Later in the season, just as last season, the creek dried up and flow ceased between Thelma Street and the confluence with the South Branch of the Skykomish River.  Here is a photo of the dry creek bed under the Railroad overpass just upstream of the confluence with the Skykomish River take September 10 :

DSCN0865

Here is a photo of the sediment deposition zone taken on September 24, 2013.

However, our summer dry spell ended earlier this year than last, and there was never exceptional risk to the fry that were gathering at the creek terminus waiting for the rains to carry them on their downstream journey.  We had rainstorms in September that produced a flow through the sediment deposition zone:

Here is a photo of high water at former terminus of Maloney Creek taken September 29, 2013:

High water at former terminus of Maloney Creek

Since the creek rose and was able to rejoin the Skykomish River in September the fry were completely flushed out, and no fry are to be seen in Maloney Creek today.

Then, some adult salmon began entering.  These were Pink Salmon. Here is a photo of a couple during the high water. (The Pink Salmon are hard to see; sorry about that.).

DSCN0894

I saw only a half dozen or so Pink Salmon in September.

[The main event for the Pink Salmon was in the Skykomish River proper, where we witnessed a major Pink Salmon return this year.  This spawning went on ceaselessly for at least three weeks right under the bridge in the Town of Skykomish.]

I visited the Creek on Saturday Oct 12, 2013.  The creek has dropped again since the September rain storms, and is dropping still.  It has dropped to a level too low for much salmon spawning activity.  However, there were still several Pink salmon in the creek. They did not appear to be actively spawning. I spooked one male Pink Salmon that was right next to the bank as I walked along the creek just below Thelma Street.  He darted upstream a short ways, then proceeded to slowly swim on.  The water was so shallow I was able to watch his every movement and follow him as he swam upstream among the rocks and leaves, around a root wad, around a bend to the right, and then another to the left, and then one to the right again.  All total he traveled about 200 yards in the 15 minutes while I watched.  He finally paused when he encountered two other Pink Salmon, one male and one female. These two were not actively spawning, but were associating with each other.  The male I had followed ceased his upstream journey at this point.  He appeared to have found his people, so I left him there. I also saw two Coho Salmon under the Old Cascade Highway Bridge.  They were holding in very shallow water and were not in prime condition.  They may already have spawned.  Maloney Creek is dropping right now and the main Coho Run has not yet arrived, at least in the creek.  Coho have been seen in the South Branch of the Skykomish River so we only have to wait for those torrential rains to raise the creek level for our brother salmon.  Last year the Coho made their main entry at the end of October after a heavy downpour.  The two Coho I saw were probably the vanguard.  There is no rain in the forecast for the next 5 days so there is not much chance of any spawning activity in the Maloney Creek for at least a week.

Stay Tuned.

If you visit the Creek let us know what you see.

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Quiet again

Report for December 3, 2012 by Rich Yarges

I visited Maloney Creek today to see if the recent rain might have brought up any more salmon. I was somewhat disappointed because the water was not much higher than last week. I had my waders on but I hardly needed anything more than knee boots. It seems that most of the recent precipitation has fallen as snow in the Maloney Creek Watershed. I walked the Creek from the bottom of the Staircase Pools all the way to the Old Cascade Highway Bridge. I counted only 12 salmon, all Chinook, and all but one of them were salmon that had already spawned and were just holding. Here are a couple of stills of the holding salmon.

Salmon Holding in Maloney Creek

Salmon Holding

Salmon Carcass

 

The prior week I had counted 17 salmon in the same stretch of water.  One salmon, however, was in prime condition; not a sign of any fungus at all on him (I am pretty sure it is a male).  This salmon was very active, compared to his spawned-out neighbors.  I was able to get a good video of him.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKdbWvtE3dc

 http://youtu.be/I_B2lwemoT0

I approached him carefully so I don’t think I affected his activity much.  He appears to be carefully exploring the water in front of him; swimming upstream a short way, and then retreating back to safe ground. A beautiful fish looking for company.

 

 

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Rain brings in more Salmon

Report for November 28, 2012 by Rich Yarges

I visited Maloney Creek this morning. I had just returned to Skykomish after visiting family on the Thanksgiving holiday, so I missed the heavy rains of the last week or so. I entered at the end of Thelma Street and walked upstream. The water was about as low as it was for my previous report, but it was apparent from the way the leaves were cleared from the bank that the creek had dropped significantly in the last few days. It had probably been a foot deeper within the last week. I walked upstream to the lower end of the Staircase pools. I saw no fish. I was discouraged because after the heavy rains I was expecting to see something. Then I returned to the access point at Thelma Street and walked downstream. I began to see salmon. Continuing downstream to the bridge over the Old Cascade Highway I counted 17 salmon. I also walked downstream from the Old Cascade Highway Bridge to the Railroad Bridge and saw 5 more, for 22 salmon in all. I also saw one salmon carcass. The fish were either resting or trying to hide from me. This made it difficult to get many good photographs. They love to hide in the root wads that the stream hydrologist planted. All the fish were Chinook. They did not appear to be completely spawned out, but I did not observe any spawning activity. They must have been spawning when the water was higher. Sorry I missed that. Here are some pictures I took along the way.

No Salmon Here

 

Leaves Show How High the Water was

Leaves Show How High the Water was

 

Salmon Carcass just Downstream of the Thelma Steet entry Point

Salmon Carcass

Hiding Salmon

Hiding Salmon

 

Another Hiding Salmon

Another Hiding Salmon

And Another Hiding Salmon

And Another Hiding Salmon

Resting Salmon

Resting Salmon

 

 We are expecting more rain in the next several days so it is possible that spawning may pick up again. Thanks for visiting and I will keep you posted on any new activity.

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All Quiet in Maloney Creek

Report for November 17, 2012 by Rich Yarges

I visited Maloney Creek briefly today. The water level is down significantly from last week. It’s still a pretty creek, but I didn’t see any signs of salmon or any other life for that matter.  There’s not much holding water left for the salmon.  You wouldn’t guess all the activity that was taking place here just a few weeks ago.  I am sure there are eggs the salmon left here, but all is hidden from our view right now.  If you get a chance to visit the creek please post a comment.  I would like to keep track of anything else you see.

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Spawning Activity has Ceased, at Least for Now

Report for November 11, by Rich Yarges

I visited Maloney Creek again on Sunday. The creek is lower now, and much quieter than last weekend.  The spawning activity has ceased. There are still some salmon about, but they are not spawning.  They appear to be resting from last weekend.  The salmon that I did see were almost all in singles.  I took this photo of a male resting in shallow water. 

 

Resting Male Salmon

 

I waded to the middle of the creek to see how alert the salmon was.  I got pretty close, but once he caught sight of me he took off suddenly, swimming upstream for about 200 yards.  I followed him until he disappeared into a root wad.  I am sure that some salmon I saw today were the same ones I saw spawning last weekend.  I saw 2-3 females and 4-5 males.  The females that I saw had the webbing in their tails almost completely worn away.  This had to be because they use their tails to sweep out the nest for their eggs. Their tail looks like a badly worn broom.  The males did not exhibit this feature. 

I didn’t see any salmon carcasses, so many of the salmon I saw last week have either retreated downstream or perhaps been scooped up by an eagle.  We have been seeing more eagles about now.   

I also noticed this:

Large Animal Track (Bear?)

This photo was taken right on the bank where I took the photos of the salmon spawning last week.  It is hard to see it in the photo but there is a fresh depression in the gravel that is almost as big as my glove. The depression, and several others at the same location, is the track of a large animal. I couldn’t make out any detail because the gravel doesn’t take a print well, but the tracks aren’t elongated like a human print so I don’t think they are human.   They are more roundish than a human print.  They are too large and deep to be a dog, coyote, or bobcat. There are no domestic animals nearby to account for them either. I gradually realized that they were almost certainly left by a bear.  I felt a little chill run up my spine as I came to this conclusion, and I was a little more cautious for the rest of my visit.  Perhaps a bear has discovered our spawning salmon as well.

If you want to see spawning salmon it may be best to wait for our next freshet to bring some more salmon in.  The salmon in the creek right now appear to have already spawned.  If you do go to the creek please be watchful for bears.

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Link to a Wikipedia Article on Spawning

I have added this link to a Wikipedia article on spawning.  For those who would like to learn more about spawning behaviors the article is quite interesting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spawn_(biology)

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Chinook Salmon Spawning is in Full Swing!

Report for November 3, 2012 by Rich Yarges 

I looked for salmon at the bridge over the Old Cascade Highway today.  The creek had dropped to what it had been several weeks ago when I walked it in my waders.  When I looked over the edge of the bridge I spooked a heron.  We both startled each other. The heron took off flying downstream.  Near the shore below the bridge was a pod of 5-6 salmon.  The heron had been standing right there amongst the fish.   I wonder what it was doing?  Was it eating salmon eggs; or salmon? 

From the bridge I waded upstream several hundred yards.  There, I got this wonderful video of salmon spawning:  (click on the link below to see the youtube video.)

Salmon Spawning video 1

I left the stream at the Old Cascade Highway and re-entered at the end of Thelma street.  Here is a photo of the place where I took the picture of salmon spawning several days ago.  You can see from this photo that the water has dropped quite a bit. 

Root Wad

 The fish are no longer be able to hide under the root wad.  There are still a few salmon up here but not as many as a few days ago.  I walked upstream past several of the staircase falls and from there I walked to the end of the accessable area of the creek. I looked for salmon along the way, but I didn’t see any.  I think that the farthest they have gotten upstream is to the bottom of the staircase falls.  All total today I probably saw 40-50 salmon.  The creek is full of them.  Now is a good time to visit Maloney Creek to watch wild Chinook salmon spawn.  It is quite a sight to see!

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Oh My, What a Sight!

Report for October 31, 2012 by Rich Yarges

I visited Maloney Creek today during a brief respite from the rain. The weatherman is predicting possibly heavy rain tonight. The creek was actually lower than yesterday. This surprised me because we did have some rain last night. I guess it wasn’t enough to keep the creek high. The flow has almost ceased in the Sediment Deposition Zone.  I am glad I went though, because I got my best pictures yet.

I entered at Thelma Street and walked upstream from there. At the root wad  the hydrologist had planted just below the Staircase Fall I spotted some salmon. These salmon were Chinook (aka: Tyee or King) and they were definitely in spawning mode. There appeared to be a female tucked up under the root wad and I could only see her tail sticking out a little. There were three or four males cavorting (my unscientific description) around behind her. They appeared to be wrestling with each other to take up the position right behind her. There were also a few smaller salmon hanging back a little. I approached cautiously and got some very nice pictures. I was even able to get some underwater shots. The salmon were so intent on what they were doing that they let me get real close as long as I didn’t make any sudden movements. The smaller ones to the rear seemed more aware of me, as they would often disappear if I made any sudden movements. I was so close to the spawning males that I I kept getting splashed in the face by water they threw up with their tails.  That added a little extra challenge to taking their picture.  Here are some of my best photos:

Two Male Chinook Salmon spawning

 

Two Male Salmon Spawning

 

Salmon Spawning in Maloney Creek

 

Male Chinook Salmon Spawning

 

I also walked downstream from Thelma Street. I kept looking around the root wads carefully, but I didn’t see any more salmon. I also went to the bridge over the Old Cascade Highway, but I didn’t see any more salmon there either.

If you want to see some wild salmon spawning now would be the time to visit Maloney Creek. Maloney is a nice place to observe them because you can get really close if you are careful.

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There they are!

 Report for October 30, 2012 by Rich Yarges

I went over to Maloney Creek today during a let up in the rain and saw 8 to 10 salmon.  I saw 4 near the end of Thelma Street, and about 6 near the bridge over the Old Cascade Highway.  These photos were taken just upstream of the bridge.

Welcome Home!

My aren’t you the handsome fellow!

Getting pictures is a challenge right now.  You need to approach the salmon very carefully to avoid spooking them.  My experience is that they will become less cautious as  spawning gets more intense.  I tried to get an underwater shot, but as soon as my foot or hand touches the water they are gone.  And it is amazing how well they can hide. The salmon are there. Things are picking up.  Hope you get a chance to get out and see them.  Let me know what you see.

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But Where are they?

Report for October 28, 2012 by Rich Yarges

It rained quite a bit yesterday and last night. Here you can see clouds clearing off the mountainside which are headwaters for Maloney Creek.

We are getting a little break from the rain today. There is a lot of water running in Maloney Creek right now. I donned my waders and made a thorough search for salmon from the bridge at Old Cascade Highway to as far as I could walk upstream . Water is starting to flow through the sediment deposition area. I took these picture there.

Sediment Deposition zone 10-28-2012

Water beginning to flow through the Sediment Deposition Zone

 

Water Entering Deposition Zone

The water should be high enough now to entice salmon to come up from the Skykomish River. I could not see any signs of them, but the water is deep enough now in some places for them to hide. I decided to take the plunge with my Nikon coolpik AW100 camera. It is supposed to be waterproof to 33 ft but I have never tested it out. I held my hand underwater with the camera and snapped this picture in one of the staircase pools.

 

No salmon there (and my camera survived!).  I will be ready to take their portrait when they arrive.  I am thinking of making a night visit to the creek.  I think the salmon tend to move more at night.  If you visit the creek, be sure to give me your report.  I am sure we will be seeing some salmon soon.

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