Berkeley: Salmon-sighting reported at Codornices Creek

Interesting news from Friends of 5 Creeks in their latest email newsletter about a salmon sighting at Codornices Creek in Berkeley:

Salmonids in Codornices – Hooray!
Last week’s storms are an exciting part of our Mediterranean climate’s “springtime.” They flush seedlings to life and recharge the water stored in our fractured hills, the source of our creeks. Where creeks are not artificially walled in, high flows topple trees into the current and undercut banks, creating pools and refuges vital to fish and other water creatures. Silt nourishes the Bay’s mudflats and helps keep Bay water cloudy, important in preventing toxic algae blooms.

The high storm flows also draw big ocean-going fish that fight their way upstream to build nests and spawn where they find gravel -– itself cleaned and deposited by strong flows. Steelhead trout have been seen in Codornices Creek for years, and on Monday, as water cleared fter the storm, Codornices neighbor Dan Dole photographed what appears to be a chinook salmon — as far as we know, the first reported ever. It’s an exciting part of our natural round and start of a new year.

In Friends of Five Creeks’ area, Codornices is the only creek with an ongoing population of these adventurous explorers. This is not an ago-old run: before European settlement, the creek petered out in a wet grassland with no open channel to the Bay. Steelhead probably began exploring upstream almost as soon as settlers ditched the creek through for drainage, in the 1800s, but we have no records. Perhaps they began spawning successfully in Codornices Creek in the 1980s, as environmental laws and loss of industry cleaned up the creek.

Children and neighbors were reporting trout by the 1990s; F5C volunteers photographed and identified them in 1999, convincing reluctant experts. This had led to millions of dollars in efforts to make the creek more welcoming, along with improving flood control.

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, our Weed Warriors removed invasives in these projects, joined by Japanese students from English Studies International. The task is daunting; grants for these projects don’t pay for maintaining them. We didn’t see the big fish, but knowing they are there helps keep us going!

Codornices’ steelhead are rare and best left undisturbed. To experience the awe of steelhead and salmon spawning, take a guided walk with Marin’s SPAWN, which works to preserve endangered Coho salmon. This year, some tours are by bike or include kayaking!

Chris Treadway