Dave and I spend so much time in the outdoors, that we like to make the time to “help” out there when we can. There is a deep forested, ravine right near our house where I usually take the dogs for walks several times a day. It’s called Dry Creek, for good reason: by this time of year, the creek has dried up to just a series of pools. But it is still a salmon stream, and most of those pools are full of little coho fry.
Well, yesterday morning, I noticed that the lowermost pool – one of the biggest ones, but also one that can dry up quickly because it is on gravels that have been dug up many times (so they are more porous) had gone from about two feet deep to only a couple of inches in a matter of days. There were 60 or more baby cohos stuck in the remaining puddles.
So Dave and I went back down that afternoon, with a bucket and a net. We knew the puddles would get all mucky once we started stirring them up, between using the net to scoop up the fish and the fish themselves swimming around in a panic. But we worked together – I would lay the net down in the deepest part, then Dave would tromp around the edges of the puddle, to scare them to the centre.
Salmon are such an important part of our ecosystem. They are actually a key part of the nitrogen cycle here, which is why we get such giant trees here on the coast. Up to 75% of the nitrogen in our big trees is actually sourced from the ocean! Salmon swimming up the stream in the fall to spawn get dragged into forest by bears, where they decompose, providing a significant source of natural fish fertilizer. The marine signature of that nitrogen can be seen in everything from insects (which grew as maggots in the decaying salmon) to the migrating songbirds that eat the insects, to wolves that feed on the salmon.
It was hard to count, but I think we must have got 70 fish or more. There is a nice deep pool about 100 m up the stream, which is not too crowded with fish, so we dumped the little guys up there. We are supposed to get rain for much of next week, so they just need to make it through the next few days, then they should be fine. By October, heavier rains will take them down to the sea – and then hopefully we will see them back here in four years!