Lack of rain blamed for low salmon numbers


Tomales Bay is a historic first and last stop for coho salmon who breed in the streams beyond, and return after three years to spawn. One problem is they need water from the streams to call them back. There was a very big return expected this year, but instead, it's been the other way around.

On December 30th, 2013 -- one day before the end of Marin County's driest year on record -- many of us celebrated the weather on Monday.

But 10 inches of rain when we average 52? Gregory Andrew of the Marin Municipal Water District admits he has great concern. That concern has less to do with the dry grass or prospect of water rationing, than what ought to be in Lagunitas Creek by now – the spawning Coho salmon.

Andrew estimates they have 100 salmon and should have 500-600. For now, most are in Tomales Bay, or nearby in the ocean and there is not enough water to call them.

At a spot known as "the inkwell" it might look impressive, but it's all runoff. There should be a raging, whitewater torrent at this time of year with salmon, fighting upstream. We shouldn't need to look for them. It's a pattern they've repeated for eons. Andrew says this year is "as low as it gets."

A few salmon have made it. Downstream, marked by a blue flag, is the place where last week Andrew watched a female dig a nest and lay 2,000 eggs.

"It's the clean gravel with the deep spot in front and the mound behind it and the eggs are in the mound of gravel underneath," said Andrew.

So even in this probably drought year, nature perseveres. And it's still only December, after all.

"We've still got all of January to wait and see what happens, and then we'll go from there," said Andrew.

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