Saturday, December 16, 2006

feeling a little anadromous

Winter rains around here mark the beginning of the local Coho run. It happens in a few places around the Bay Area, but the Lagunitas creek watershed in Marin is the star for viewing. Last year at the end of the season I saw one pair of fish in the creek under the Kent Lake spillway. It was a thrill, being the only spawning salmon I had seen in my life, with my own eyes that is and not on a PBS show about Alaska. This past Wednesday I went for a drive, hoping to see some fish at the beginning of the run and witnessed some dozen or so over the course of an hour. Not exactly thick with fish, but impressive nontheless.

The next night we had some baked salmon fillets with steamed cauliflower and quinoa. I should point out that the fish here came from Alaska via TJ's. It was thawed the night before and simply baked with some salt and pepper. Mmmmm....salmon.

This morning, I brought our family out to view the fish in Lagunitas creek. I told the Monkey how the fish were all grown up after spending a few years in the ocean, and how they were now adults that were ready to be mommies and daddies. They go up the rivers and creeks where they were born to go lay eggs. After that the adults get washed back down (euphemistically speaking) into the ocean and the eggs hang out in the gravel and sand for a while before being born. Then they spend some time in the creek (until they're about your size honey, just kids really), when they go downstream and out to the ocean for a few years, before coming back to be mommies and daddies themselves. "Oh, do the children go out to the ocean where their mommies and daddies are?" Yeah honey, only they never actually see them again, because the ocean is soooooo big (that and because they have been thoroughly recycled at this point).

The viewing was equally good, with a few pairs of fish in various places along the creek. The females occupied a "redd" where the gravel in the creek bottom was an obvious lighter color from being washed by her. This action literally rubs the scales from her tail, making it look white compared to the rest of her pink and golden body. Sometimes a corresponding male (with a more pronounced red color, larger size, and intact tail coloring) would be swimming beside her, and chasing away other males on the prowl up and down the creek from one redd to another.

It may not be like areas to our North, with larger populations of fish, but it warms my soul to see them here. This is a federally protected species, so it is quite awesome to see the biological drive to procreate play out in the open like this, on the side of a road within 30 miles of my home. It is truly a wonder that these fish can come back up the watershed from where they originated to start the cycle over again, and a miracle of sorts that they are still doing it today.

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