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Where to see salmon spawning in Whatcom County creeks

Watch chum salmon return to Chuckanut Creek

After 3 to 5 years in the ocean, chum salmon return to Whatcom County every year in October and November to spawn and die in the Nooksack River and local creeks like Chuckanut and Terrell.
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After 3 to 5 years in the ocean, chum salmon return to Whatcom County every year in October and November to spawn and die in the Nooksack River and local creeks like Chuckanut and Terrell.

Now’s the perfect time to see salmon in the wild, with chum salmon especially prevalent as they make their annual spawning runs.

Kendra Krantz, program assistant with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, said many people marvel at the first time they see salmon spawning in the wild.

“Actually seeing a salmon is something different,” Krantz said. “Seeing a salmon actually digging a ‘redd’ (for its eggs) in front of your eyes – you just feel the natural presence. It’s awe-inspiring.”

Krantz said that Whatcom County is home to all five species of Pacific salmon: chum, chinook, pink, sockeye and coho. Where and when they can be observed depends on the time of year and the species of salmon. Chum salmon are common in November in Whatcom County creeks that are easily accessed, such as Whatcom Creek, Chuckanut Creek and Padden Creek.

Chuckanut Creek is a popular site in November for those hoping to see the Northwest’s iconic fish return after their years-long journey at sea to the creek where they hatched. There, they will spawn and die, Krantz said.

To see salmon, Krant advises observing silently along a creek and waiting for the fish to move.

“With coho especially, they’re a really skittish fish,” Krantz said. “You have to sit patiently and watch the water.”

Popular viewing sites are Arroyo Park near the footbridge; Maritime Heritage Park near the fish hatchery at the mouth of Whatcom Creek; Salmon Park, off Fraser Street in the Redtail Reach area along Whatcom Creek; and along Padden Creek in Fairhaven Park, where coho can be found. Callers to The Bellingham Herald report that they’ve been seeing salmon from the footbridges along the Hertz Trail at North Lake Whatcom Park.

In Lynden, try Fishtrap Creek at Lynden City Park or Bertrand Creek at Berthusen Park. In Acme, fish are found at Landing Strip Creek. Those sites are all tributaries of the Nooksack River.

Spelling of the word for a salmon egg nest was corrected Nov. 17, 2016.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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