Coho salmon are spawning in Coal Creek! In partnership with the Muckleshoot Tribal Fisheries Department and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Bellevue celebrated the release of over 600 adult cohos into the creek on Monday, Nov. 4.
“The coho salmon are a species special to Bellevue, and we’ve strategically worked for years to restore their numbers,” said Kit Paulsen, Bellevue’s environmental scientist. “Our partnership with the Muckleshoot tribe and the state to receive salmon from the Issaquah hatchery provides a huge boost to our efforts.”
These coho now call Bellevue home. The fish are expected to finish spawning, then die within weeks. If all goes well, their eggs will incubate in the gravel until next spring, and the juvenile coho will stay in Coal Creek for a year before migrating to the Pacific Ocean. Three years later, the adult fish should return to Coal Creek.
Visitors to Coal Creek can see the salmon spawning for a few days or so, particularly from the Red Cedar trailhead. Trail users are asked to stay out of the stream and keep their pets out through the winter. Fish bodies can be harmful to dogs, and the salmon eggs need protection to hatch successfully in the spring.
“The salmon carcasses may smell bad to us, but to raccoon, bobcat, cougar and bear, they smell like dinner,” Paulsen noted. “They need be left alone to help nourish the stream and wildlife.”
The fish release is part of a broader effort by the Muckleshoot tribe and the state to replant salmon in local waterways to expand natural production of fish populations. Urban streams play an important role, and Bellevue Utilities has made significant efforts to improve Bellevue’s stream habitats to support salmon.
Said Paulsen, "We keep working to improve habitat so that someday hatchery fish won't be needed. But, even with the work we’ve done so far, that day is still in the future. We appreciate the work the tribe and state are doing to help keep salmon spawning in Bellevue streams.”