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Johnson Creek Watershed Council: Salmon sightings wanted

by: MERRY MACKINNON - After the college's restoration of Crystal Springs Creek in Reed Canyon, Reed College Naturalist Zac Perry monitors the return of wildlife to the area. He's seen beaver, otters, steelhead trout, and juvenile Chinook salmon - but so far, no sightings of the once-abundant coho salmon. Have you seen any?Whenever the report arrives of a coho salmon, whether swimming or floating, in Johnson Creek or any of its tributaries, word spreads fast.

“We share that information quickly, because it’s always exciting when a coho salmon is sighted,” said Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s Noah Jenkins, education and research associate.

Coho salmon are listed as endangered by the State of Oregon. To improve the chances of sightings, each year a representative from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife visits the JCWC office to train volunteers on how to do fish surveys. In 2012, trained volunteers recorded coho salmon on Metro property upstream of Gresham. And downstream, in Clackamas County, along Luther Road between S.E. 82nd and 72nd Avenues, a couple of spawned-out coho salmon carcasses were also observed in Johnson Creek.

With Portland’s vigorous efforts to return Crystal Springs Creek to being a more natural stream with improved fish habitat, documented salmon sightings provide proof that those efforts are paying off. The Johnson Creek Watershed Council, a partner in the restoration project, would like to hear from anyone who has seen coho salmon, or any other type of salmon, in Crystal Springs Creek, as well as in Johnson Creek.

“We’d love to know about it,” Jenkins confirmed. “We’re interested in whatever salmonids are out there.”

Reed College Naturalist Zac Perry also invites the communty to be on the lookout for salmonids in Crystal Springs Creek. Perry installed a permanent underwater camera in the creek near the Reed Lake several years ago, so he can monitor whatever is swimming past the upper portion of the creek.

“And on video we’ve seen juvenile Chinook salmon swim past the camera,” Perry said. But if coho salmon are migrating up Reed College’s Crystal Springs Creek to spawn, Perry's camera can't film them, because the camera is located too far upstream.

To improve monitoring, this year Perry plans on placing another underwater wildlife camera further downstream to document if salmon are making their way up the creek to Reed College campus. If so, Perry will report that information to others involved in creek restoration, including Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.

“We're part of a bigger system,” Perry said. “It’s about sharing the information.” The more eyes the better, when it comes to fish sightings – and Perry invites community members to join in on watching the creek for coho and other salmon.

“There's an awareness of the value of having a creek in your park, and having salmon swimming in it,” Perry said – with this invitation: “Take a walk, and report if you see a salmon.”

To report sightings of salmon in Crystal Springs Creek call the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) at 503/652-7477.