Adult and juvenile coho will once again swim in the upper reaches of Chalaat Creek on the Hoh Tribe’s reservation for the first time in decades thanks to a fish passage improvement completed by the Hoh Tribe this fall.

Chalaat Creek is a tributary to the lower Hoh River. The 5-mile long creek meanders through mature second growth timber and forested wetland on the tribe’s reservation about 30 miles south of Forks. It empties into the Hoh River several thousand feet from the ocean.

“This is the first main tributary to the Hoh River that fish encounter coming in from the ocean,” said Steve Allison, habitat biologist for the Hoh Tribe. “These kinds of streams are historically significant coho producers and we think we’re going to see a noticeable increase in the numbers of young coho coming out of Chalaat Creek.”

The tribe, through a $218,000 Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund grant, replaced a failing, impassable culvert with a bridge and created a 330- foot section of stream channel to allow fish access to a pond with about 2.5 miles of additional habitat upstream.

The low-gradient channel gives salmon access to a two-acre natural pond that provides excellent over-wintering habitat for young fish, Allison said. The re-opened miles of stream above the pond will be used as spawning and rearing habitat.

Additionally, streams closest to the ocean often see many “dip-ins” of juvenile salmon migrating downstream from other tributaries. Tributaries like Chalaat offer more consistent flows and convenient escape from flood conditions I the river as well as a sanctuary to feed and grow before migrating to the ocean.

“We will monitor these streams and continue to do spawning fish surveys, smolt trapping and coded-wire tagging,” said Allison. “We’ve had as many as 1,000 coho smolts migrating out of Chalaat Creek in the recent past. It will be exciting to see how much more productive it becomes in the years ahead.”

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For more information, contact: Steve Allison, natural resources directory, Hoh Tribe – (360) 374-5404; Debbie Preston, coastal information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501, dpreston@nwifc.org