Employees with the Bellevue Utilities Department waded through Kelsey Creek this week, plucking fish from the stream with nets and recording species and size before releasing the fish back in the water. YouTube video
Bellevue has more than 70 miles of undeveloped streams -- home to salmon, trout and other fish. Keeping the streams clean and flowing naturally is one of the goals of the city's Environmental Stewardship Initiative.
"Checking the size and diversity of the fish population is a good way to evaluate the health of Bellevue's streams and determine if there are any major problems," said Kit Paulsen, the city's stream scientist. "We rotate streams and try to do summer sampling every other year instead of annually to limit stress on the fish."
Juvenile coho salmon stay in local streams for a full year, others stay only one to three months before migrating to Lake Washington. Chinook travel to the Pacific Ocean right away; sockeye stay in the lake for a year before migrating. Depending on the species, the fish live in the ocean from two to four years and then return to spawn in the stream where they hatched.
Kelsey Creek, Bellevue's major stream and where the majority of salmon come in and spawn, is an important place to sample fish. The stream is home to chinook salmon, which are on the endangered species list, as well as sockeye and coho salmon and cutthroat trout.
Despite an absence of coho at this location this time, the sampling at Kelsey Creek yielded positive results.
"We're finding cutthroat trout in three different age classes, which means there is enough diversity to handle a variety of sizes of fish," said Paulsen. "We're also finding other native fish, like the small dace, which is good."
Sampling has shown the stream has maintained diversity since the 1980s.
"In an urban environment, it's really incredible to have maintained fish populations we've always had," Paulsen said. "Our goal is to manage the system to maintain the diversity and complexity of the system."
Return to News Release Index