We've already been tracking the great news that this year is setting records for the number of returning coho salmon in the Willamette (scroll down to view ODFW's salmon and steelhead reporting data), but catching a glimpse of these sojourners in our neck of the woods makes the return statistics so much more meaningful!
Thanks to LWC Assistant Project Manager Aubrey Cloud for capturing and sharing this exciting find!
From Aubrey's report (he was in the field retrieving LWC stream temperature loggers from North and South Fork Pedee Creeks):
The initial sighting was when I was standing on the Pedee Creek Rd bridge as it crosses over N Fork - I was able to just look out and see them. Initial sighting was at 11:30. I checked back in after retrievals wrapped and at 3:45 they were still there!
While technically N Fork, it's so close to S Fork that I went and checked a few spots after that, just to see if I could get lucky. I checked the replaced bridge and one of the log structures, but no dice - the flows at those spots seemed not quite deep enough for the size of these monster fish! I was about to drive off and call it a day, when I thought to check the bridge over S Fork Pedee right before the fork confluence. I didn't see any live salmon, but I did find a carcass! This one I was able to take out of the water and get some good pics (see pics below), before replacing it where I found it.
In order to keep track of their populations, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) tracks salmon and steelhead returning to their spawning grounds along major waterways every year. Below, you can view the annual counts of salmon and steelhead passing through Willamette Falls from 1961 through 2020. Note the high returns of coho salmon in 2009 and 2010, with 25,298 counted in 2009 and 20,021 in 2010. If you scroll through the monthly reporting sheets on the right, you'll see that coho returns this year have already surpassed 21,000 since the first returning fish were sighted at the end of August!