Volunteers crucial to documenting salmon in creek

On Dec. 10, Johnson Creek Watershed Council volunteer surveyors Kari Harrison and Anna Stulz found what they were looking for: a coho salmon carcass.

Since Nov. 1, 30 volunteers have been donning hip boots and wading specific reaches of Johnson Creek (about a mile in length) looking for evidence of spawning salmon. The volunteers are part of a pilot citizen-science project led by the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, which will launch the 2012 volunteer-led surveys with an in-depth orientation session in October 2012.

If you would like to be involved, contact Amy Lodholz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

'We are very impressed at the level of commitment our volunteers gave to this project and are so excited it has culminated in the discovery of this carcass. Documenting the salmon on Johnson Creek is so important for our work and we are thankful for the support of our volunteers,' said Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Lodholz.

The salmon was found in the main stem of Johnson Creek, near the western border of Gresham. It was a naturally spawned fish, since it still has its adipose fin (hatchery fish have their adipose fins clipped), but it is not clear if this fish is of hatchery origin or wild stock. Field surveys by the City of Portland and Multnomah County have found juvenile coho in Johnson Creek and it is possible that this fish has returned to its natal stream. The carcass was taken to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for sampling, which will determine the age, sex and whether or not the salmon spawned.

If the salmon was successful in spawning, its eggs will hatch in the spring and the young will rear in Johnson Creek for a year, then migrate to the ocean. Coho then spend about three years in the sea, before returning to spawn in their natal streams (but some do occasionally stray to other streams).

Documenting these adult spawners highlights the importance of the council's and other entities' work to improve water quality and enhance habitat.

In December 2010, three adult coho salmon carcasses and one live adult coho were seen in a main stem of Johnson Creek near the eastern border of Gresham, about 15 miles from the mouth of Johnson Creek.

Johnson Creek is 26 miles long and runs from Boring to Milwaukie. The 54-square-mile watershed is home to threatened and endangered species including salmon, red-legged frogs, salamanders and painted turtles.

The Johnson Creek Watershed Council's mission is to promote restoration and stewardship of a healthy Johnson Creek Watershed through sound science and community engagement.

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