Cutthroat Battling & Spawning
I visited the same piece of Fell Channel again to see if anymore Coho fry had emerged from the gravel.
Unfortunately I didn't see any fry in the same area and to make matters much worse (for the Coho fry) I saw a pair of Cutthroat utilizing the same redd that the Coho had made in the fall.
This was in very close proximity to where I had seen the Coho fry of the year just days before.
Downstream of the mating pair I spotted two male Cutthroats taking part in a seemingly brutal battle that surely left both sides with some war marks. I think that these two were looking for mating rights for the female spotted just upstream, however a much smaller suitor had swooped in while these two brutes were battling it out.
The good news is upstream from the mating Cutthroat I was able to spot a couple more Coho fry. I highly doubt that the fry from the redd below would've been able to swim up to this area, so I would imagine the adult Coho from the fall had actually made multiple redds. Previously identified was two redds from the fall Coho, this would be redd #3.
First Coho Fry of the Year Sighted
The first Coho fry of the year for 2018 have been spotted on Mosquito Creek.
The fry were spotted on the exact spot the pair of adults were spawning in the fall. I wasn't sure if we would see any fry emerge for a few reasons.
1) The area where the eggs were laid was dewatered for a period of 48-72 hours as the intake for the channel was blocked. I wasn't sure if the female had laid her eggs of not prior to this time.
2) The area of channel where the eggs were laid has seen a significant amount of sediments and fine accumulation over the past few months. I was afraid this would have burried the fry prevent them from emerging. Seems that at least a few fry have made it out of the gravel.
Chum Fry Release on MacKay Creek, 2018
On Thursday March 26th the MacKay Creek volunteers along with DFO held the annual Chum release event. There were quite a few kids that showed up, upwards of 50. Looked like the kids had a blast while doing the release.
It was a dark evening with periods of rain, which probably wasn't the greatest for the turn out. However for the fish it was great. The water was up and a little bit murky, combined with the darkness it should've made for good numbers making it out to the ocean. - Or at least to get the fry suited to their new environment while they transitioned to the ocean.
Wintering Coho Fry (Yearlings)
For Christmas I purchased a GoPro Hero 5 to assist with my stream keeping, and to bring along for snorkeling during my Mexico trip for mid January.
I had taken it out a few times for practice runs on the Fell and Griffin Channels, but as happens during the Winter months the fish seemingly all but disappear.
On a whim before going to the gym at Delbrook Recentre I decided to take the camera to my absolute favorite spot on the Mosquito Watershed. Where I have spotted many winter Coho fry and Cutthroat in the past. As well as spawning adults in the fall.
This pool is literally the only refuge pool on the entire watershed. It is about 3ft deep during normal flows and can be in excess of 6ft deep during peak flows. Which is totally unheard of on this system. It is also very large about 15ft x 15ft, filled with both woody debris and leaf litter. Again, something no other pools on Mosquito Creek has.
It is seemingly the holy grail of pools and the most critically important piece of water for Mosquito Creek. It is actually part of the tributary known as Thain (or Mission) Creek.
The Refuge Pool
I was super excited the second I laid eyes on the pool. I was a bit worried as to if it held up during the heavy periods of rain we experienced this year. To my delight it was still in place, looking as strong as ever. There were two times this Fall during the rains, where I had been down and actually removed some logs from the jam to relieve pressure as it had, by my estimate, multiplied its volume by 400%.
Sure enough as I walked closer I was able to immediately see fry holding, it was great to see! I couldn't believe how many there were. Last year there were approximately 100-150 fish holding. This year there was at least 400, maybe more.
I think I only spotted 2 or 3 adult Cutthroats, but that was ok. The shear amount of Coho fry in the shoal was astonishing. This is literally the future of the Coho on this creek and the numbers were great to see.
I reall hope the District/DFO/Squamish Nation does something to protect this section of creek. Without it I don't think there would be any Coho left.
Below find the Video - *Also* be sure to read the bio beneath the video on this page.
The Importance of Winter Habitat
Did you know that Coho fry spend a year in their Creek/Stream before leaving to the Ocean?
This extended rearing phase is often the limiting factor for the species success. In the Summer months the fry have to deal with hot temperatures and low flows, and during the Winter they rely on deep slow moving pools for refuge.
Mosquito Creek like many urban streams have their challenges.
One of which is they generally have large storm drain networks that are fed by our roads. Mosquito has seen mass fish kill offs in the past from neglegent residents. Low flows during Summer and Winter months make this a very challenging time for the life under the water.
Also, many urban streams have lost complexity created by large fallen trees and the deeper pools that come with it. These deeper pools are few and far between. It is likely almost every fish within several hundred meters has come to seek refuge in this one pool, making it critical to the species success on this watershed. The challenge here is there is literally so few of these refuges that you can count them on 1 hand.
Another challenge is that Mosquito Creek has a large off leash dog area and with it these refuge pools have become dog swimming pools. There are 4 areas on Mosquito that were created specifically to help the Salmon. 1) The channel south of the skateboard bowl (Griffin Channel) 2) The channel below HWY 1 which runs parallel to Fell Ave (Fell Channel) 3) The two Alcoves that hold deep still water, there's one just south east of the trailhead coming down off Fell Ave hill (West Alcove) 4) The other just a few steps up from the closed trail sign from the access on 19th to the East trail (East Alcove). Although Fell Channel is highlighted at every entrance as a "No Dog" zone, many trail users ignore these signs. There is very little water that enters this channel regardless of the time of year, and very little summer and wintering refuge, so dog pressure is magnified.
East Alcove has significant dog pressure, especially during Summer months when dog activity kicks up silt and sediment to suffocate the fry.
Fell Channel Spawners
It was nearly mid November and I was walking Mosquito with no expectations. I had only seen 1 dead Coho jack in the lower reaches and 1 dead Chum up to this point.
This had been a tough year to this point as we had seen 0 Pinks and nearly 0 Chum as well. There had only been a few days of heavy rain in October, but with no signs of Coho.
Today I was walking the main path of the Trail along the Fell Channel. I had never spotted an adult in this channel, but figured it must receive some utilization as many fry use it as rearing habitat.
I was actually really curious to see how the head pool was holding up after being suctioned out by Sandie and Al late this summer. It looked good, but with noticeable sediment accumulating from the heavy rains we had been receiving.
To my surprise, not more than 30 yards down the channel I saw an adult Coho. She was paired up with a noticeably smaller male, a jack, about 1/4 of her size.
I was able to visit the pair many times in the following two weeks. I noticed the female utilized more than 1 redd, perhaps her first was too exposed to the walkers on the trail.
Unfortunately on Nov 23rd there had been an issue with the intake to the channel. Nearly no water was flowing. I immediately called Sandie and let her know we had an issue.
A day or so later Sandie and Tyler were able to restore the flow. I hope the eggs survived as they were most and buried during the approx 2 days without water flowing.
I was not able to locate either of the adults the day the channel dried up, or anytime after it was restored.
Here is the video of them spawning.
Cedar Tree Planting & Updates
I am a little late posting this update, but in mid July, Ken had arranged some cedar trees for me to pick up and plant on Mosquito.
A few days later, July 24th or so, I started getting to work planting all the trees.
I was able to do about 15-20 a day, it was tough going in the hot 30+ weather and I wanted to make sure the trees got put in an area that gave them the best chance to grow into big strong trees. Needless to say it was much more time consuming than expected, in hindsight I should have definitely arranged another couple people to help out.
Over the period of 4 days I was able to plant about 80 cedars and 10 Douglas Fir saplings. I had a couple run in with ground wasp nests, which was not fun at all. Lots of stings!
I was quite pleased with the level of interest the trail walkers had in my doing. Many people stopped and asked what I was doing, many concerned I was doing something negative. To their surprise I was actually helping the creek, nobody had guessed that haha!
Here are some pics of the guys I planted!
Here are pics of their progress on Sept 7th
I only went back twice since planting the trees to water them, I had forgotten where I planted most. To my surprise nearly all of them were doing extremely well given the dry summer we experienced. As of Sept 7th I was seeing about 5% which had not made it, which is surprisingly really good numbers for Cedar transplanting (so I have heard).
Hydro-Vac-ing Fell Channel Pool
On the morning of Aug 24th, Al & Sandie had organized a hydrovac to pull sand and silt out of the pool at the outfall of the pipe that takes water from the main-stem into the Fell Channel.
In my previous post, I had mentioned there was around 50 Cutties and Coho fry holding in this particular pool in tight quarters. They ended up getting a whole bunch more space to move around.
After it's installment 20 years ago, the Fell Channel has not had too much upkeep, as it hasn't been required. However, Al & Sandie figured it was time to do something to the first pool as it had seen the most sediment fill in over the 20 year period.
The morning did not start off to well, the company dispatched the wrong size of truck. It was much larger than requested. It was actually so large it could barely fit width-wise along the trail. To make matters worse it was too tall, and some of the truck's hose ended up breaking when it got tangled in the branches of a maple tree.
This caused the truck to lose air pressure in some areas. The driver was a little bit nervous and asked dispatch to send out the mechanic. After about 2hrs of working it's way up the trail, the truck was finally in place.
Fortunately we were able to get started without the mechanic. One of the issues was the crew was stuck using the smaller Vac as the larger one required repair. They made good work for the first 30 mins or so, then we seemed to get plauged by large stones getting stuck in the hose every 10-15 minutes for quite some time. Everytime there was a clog, the hose had to be shut down manually and hammered until we found and broke the clog free.
After about an hour or two of vacuuming the truck lost power, good news was the mechanic was driving up the trail road. He showed up in under 2 minutes and got the truck back up and running in no time.
We got back to the Vacuuming for another 2 hours, ran into a bunch more clogs, and then the tank ended up at about 70% capacity or so when we decided to call it a day.
When hydro-vac-ing the truck ends up filling up largely with water instead of the intended rock and gravel. We did pretty good given all the hiccups along the way. However we would have done much better had we a smaller truck with it's large hose working.
Here are some pics!
Pool After Hydro-Vac was complete
Fell Channel Updates
Do you ever take a second to stop and look at the water in a creek when you're hiking or walking?
I can't say I do unless I am doing something volunteer related.
Recently I was walking Fell Channel on Mosquito and came across a pool that is a favorite for dogs, even though no dogs are allowed on this trail on or off the leash.
I was actually taking a few pictures to send to the City in an ask for them to fence off this area of creek entirely to protect it from dogs when I witnessed something.
A Coho fry had breached the water to feed.
It happened so fast I didn't get a good look, then not 10 seconds later it happened again and again. And so I got my phone out to record.
Sure enough I was able to get a couple shots of these guys breaching the water. I couldn't see what it was they were feeding on but it was something I had never witnessed before.
I wonder if dog owners took a second to see this beautiful display would they stop allowing their dogs to enter the channel to continually destroy it?
Coho Fry and Cutthroat Holding in Numbers
Further up the channel there is a sight that occurs every summer.
Large numbers of Coho fry and Cutthroat hold in the first pool where the flow enters the channel from the main-stem.
It is hard to understand why they choose this area over the rest of the creek, but I have a few guesses:
Sad to see a recurring theme here, DOGS being a large issue.
My question is why are all the largest & deepest pools on Mosquito treated as dog swimming pools? It seems it's a given, "Oh this trail is off leash so the whole creek is game. Oh a nice large pool, yup that must mean its a dog swimming pool, right?"
Why is everything North of Marine Drive seemingly overly inviting for dogs to come have a swim?
I think it's time only some sections of the creek be welcoming to dogs and the rest become fenced off.
The equation is very simple:
Constant Dog Pressure = Far Less Fish
Don't believe me?
Check out the spawning beds on Thain Creek.
There is not a whole lot special about that area of creek.
The pools are not especially deep, as they run straight up and down being that they are man-made, and they are bound by ivy & blackberry bush on either side.
...Yet they yield the highest density of fish on the ENTIRE watershed.
Hmmm wonder why that is?
Your answer, no dog pressure.
Here's a vid of the fish in tight quarters on Fell Channel.
Other Updates and Dates to Remember
First evidence of the 2017 stonefly hatch was on July 2nd, 2017.
The area this was observed was right underneath the HWY 1 bridge.
Dozens of empty casings where spotted on larger boulders. Perhaps the stoneflies chose this area due to the fact that it is so dry.
Also on July 2nd I came across a large pool that was left stranded by receding water levels, with no help in sight from the weather forecast I took action with a small fish tank net to save the stranded Coho.
Below find a variety of sizes of Coho fry that I was able to save and safely release. They weren't photo shy after I released them!
Sizes were roughly 2.5" (see the fish on the top left) to the very large outlier on the bottom right who was 3.5".
Cutthroat fry were first sighted in the Fell Channel July 3rd, they were absolutely tiny! Around 1/3 the size of an emerged Coho Fry. I was unable to get a clear photo of them as they were smaller than most pieces of gravel.
Thain Coho Fry & Garbage Clean Up
In late October of last year I cleaned out the Queens fish ladder on Thain Creek. It was entirely necessary as all the steps were completely encased in rock and sand, and the fact that there was no flow coming down the ladder.
Following this I worked my way down Thain Creek to the "daylighted" section. At the beginning of the daylighted section (looking upstream), there is a very steep section of boulders. I was able to recreate this area by moving several large 50-150lb boulders around to create step pools to make this obstacle fish passable, as well as removing all sorts of sticks and debris that were clogging up the easiest to pass sections.
Following my trappings on Thain with Sandie we believed my attempts were done too late in the year and that no Coho had spawned aboved the steep obstacle section. We believed this as our traps came back with only Cutthroat and no Coho.
However, after working my way from the bottom of this obstacle to Westview Drive I was completely surprised. There were Coho fry holding in pretty much every little pool, and as I worked my way up to the man made spawning/rearing pools in the section that had been daylighted the numbers I was seeing grew immensly. The 3-4 large man made rearing pools were holding hundreds of Coho fry. Each had shoals of 30-50, and those were just the numbers I could see. Who knows how many hid under the rocks.
It was amazing to see so many fish that nobody knew were there, especially in an area of creek I didn't think adults were able to make it to for spawning last year. Surely if the Coho had made it this far, then they could have surpassed the Queens ladder and worked their way up to the Evergreen Place culvert.
This means an extra KM had been opened up for spawning, but even more importantly for rearing. By having an extra 1,000 meters of creek for fish rearing this will hopefully mean more fry will survive to smolts as the density will be less harsh and should provide for more area/food for development.
Continuing the day of my pure joy and excitement in seeing the unexpected Coho fry in Thain, I came across some not so good news.
A garbage bag from the Westview McDonalds had somehow ended up alongside/in the creek. Several hundred pairs of plastic gloves along with all sorts of other garbage was everywhere. Right by the little Salmon Hut on the west side of Westview where Thain goes underneath the road.
I couldn't stand to see it and I knew if I had gone to the district for clean up it would probably take days. So I took it upon myself to clean it all up. What I thought would be one garbage bag full was actually 4! I filled 4 big garbage bags with McDonalds trash and all sorts of bottles that had accumulated over the years. Needless to say it looks much better now, hopefully the fish appreciate it!
Protecting the East Alcove
On my previous post I discussed the importance of the Alcoves on Mosquito Creek and the abuse the East Alcove has been receiving from consistent dog pressure and the direct effect it is having on the Coho fry population.
Here is what I have done in an attempt to protect the alcove from dogs.
Firstly, I built a 3 tiered wall of natural debris along the south side of the entrance to the alcove.
Areas of Erosion / Dog Paths into Alcove
Although the entrance to the alcove is doing extremely well for preventing dog access, the areas along the "decommisioned trail" which is strictly "dog on lease only" seems to be the #1 area for dogs entering the alcove.
Since my DFO "salmon at work sign" seemed to have little effect, it was necessary I take measures into my own hands for beefing up protection. Especially since had I gone to City for help it would take them months or years to complete the construction of a proper fence.
Week after week I steadily added debris to the three main entrances that dogs had been using the access the alcove. Every other week it seemed a die-hard dog owner would remove pieces of the dog fences I had created. And so began my battle of adding more and more debris faster and faster than those owners could remove it.
Now it seems like I am at the point where it is about as good as it can get, I can clearly see evidence that some dogs are still making their way down as wet marks are left in the sand/dirt. I am confident that my efforst have reduced the dogs entering the alcove by about 50%, but my ultimate goal is to have a 99% reduction by way of a real fence.
I have gone to the City asking for help but have not yet heard back as to if they can provide assistance. I will be sure to post here first when I hear back from them.