SHELTON (November 29, 2004) – Spring Creek is about as small a stream as a salmon could possibly swim up, but Doyle Foster counts 150 fish in just a one-mile stretch.

“There are a lot of stinky fish out today,” said Foster, a spawning surveyor for the Squaxin Island Tribe. The data Foster collects will help the tribe decide whether to open fisheries on the healthy runs of wild South Sound chum this year and for several years to come.

“Spawning surveys are the most basic and important work that we do to estimate how many chum salmon are coming back,” said Joe Peters, fisheries biologist for the Squaxin Island Tribe. “We have to be diligent about getting out to these streams on a regular basis to get a good idea about how many salmon are really returning.”

While Puget Sound chinook have been listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, Puget Sound fall chum stocks have been healthy in recent years.

Keeping track of the fish that are returning to the streams is important in managing a fishery. By keeping a close eye on the salmon in the streams, the tribe and state co-managers can decide whether to open fisheries in adjoining bays.

“If the tribe wants to open a chum fishery in Totten Inlet, for example, we need to make sure enough chum salmon are making there way onto the spawning grounds on Kennedy Creek, which flows into Totten,” said Peters. “Spawning surveys are the only way to really get a good idea of how many salmon are going up the creeks to spawn.”

Data gathered during spawning surveys will also help predict future salmon run sizes. “Without good data from almost every part of the salmon life cycle, we would have a hard time putting together fishing seasons,” said Peters. In addition to conducting spawning surveys, the tribe also operates juvenile salmon smolt traps to track out-migrating salmon, which helps determine a creek’s overall production.

Chum salmon runs are an important part of the Squaxin Island Tribe’s economy and culture. In recent years, the chum fishery has been one of the most dependable for the tribe, even though the commercial market for chum salmon meat has been poor. “This is the first year in awhile that we’ve had any demand for chum salmon,” said Peters. “Most years, fishermen will sell some fish locally and smoke for their own use.”

“The chum runs that the Squaxin Tribe fishes on are healthy because of well managed fisheries and good habitat. The health of these runs emphasize the need for protecting and restoring salmon habitat,” said Peters. “Without good spawning habitat, chum salmon would be in deep trouble.”

(END)

For more information, contact: Joe Peters, fisheries biologist, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3813. Emmett O’Connell, South Sound information officer, NWIFC, (360) 438-1181, ext. 392, eoconnell@nwifc.org

Photos Available: Photos of steelhead available, high quality, jpg format. Contact Emmett O’Connell at above number for more information.