PHOTOS: Volunteers Release 110,000 Coho Salmon Fry Into Miller Creek

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Story & Photos by Michael Brunk

Tucked away in one corner of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District facility in Normandy Park is a small, unassuming building. It is here, just yards away from Miller Creek, that the Duwamish-Green Chapter of Trout Unlimited has their hatchery operation. On Saturday, January 23rd, members of Trout Unlimited and volunteers from across the community gathered here. Their purpose: to transport and release 110,000 young Coho Salmon fry into various creeks in the local area.

According to chapter member and local conservationist Andy Batcho, the Coho fry have been raised from eggs acquired from the Soos Creek Hatchery in early January. The fry are born with a yolk sac that provides nourishment at first, but soon the sac is consumed and it’s time for them to be released into the wild.

“It’s a balancing act,” says Dennis Clark, King County Steward of the Miller and Walker Creek basins. Despite the fact a wild Coho female will lay around 3,000 eggs, only 10% of those will hatch. This, combined with other factors, such as unexplained deaths of adult salmon before they can spawn, means that very few native fish are able to successfully reproduce.

Clark explained that hatchery operations are a useful piece of the overall strategy to bolster fish populations, but that it’s important that the newly planted fry not overwhelm the native fish. Timing and release location are two critical elements in ensuring that the hatchery-raised salmon are forced to compete and become healthy adult fish as a result.

In talking to the people at the hatchery and out in the field planting the young salmon, it is clear that this is an effort that attracts a broad swath of people from across the community – families with young children, retired engineers, doctors, local politicians, scientists, sportsmen and others. Despite the cold, gray weather, they come together with a desire to contribute something back to the environment.

By itself this volunteer-run effort is quite literally just a drop in the ocean, but combined with the hard work of many others in our region it adds to the incremental improvements in the overall health of the habitat in which we all live.

There are far worse ways to spend a Saturday morning.

Here’s a Photo Slideshow of the event:

Click to View Michael Brunk’s Photo Slideshow

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