Decades ago, salmon and steelhead returned to tiny Tibbetts Creek in Issaquah to spawn, but the runs eventually disappeared. Now, biologists and others are trying to restart the natural run by planting coho salmon from the Issaquah Hatchery into the creek.
On Wednesday, about 15 workers — volunteers and employees of the Muckleshoot Tribe — used nets to remove about 550 male and female salmon from the hatchery and truck them to seven locations on Tibbetts Creek.
There the fish, ripe and red with age, were carefully transplanted so they could spawn naturally in the rain-swollen creek.
Mike Mahovlich, a fisheries biologist with the Muckleshoot Tribe, said the pilot program to plant coho in the creek has been under way for several years.
Studies have shown that the salmon do spawn successfully, Mahovlich said, and the spawn survive to become fry. What’s not known is whether they make it to the next stage as smolt the following spring. Also unknown is whether the coho will return from the ocean as adults three years later.