Skookum Inlet Fall Chum, Skookum, Little and Elson Creek Lower Returns.

Elson Creek Chum

Elson Creek Chum

Skookum Inlet Fall Chum,  which return to spawn late November into January in Skookum, Little and Elson Creek appear to be returning in lower numbers.  Skookum Fall Chum, not be mistaken for Upper Skookum Fall Chum that return October- December, are  a mixed chum stock of Elson Hatchery and wild Chum production.  Detailed description of these chum stock is available at WDFW Salmon Stock Inventory (SaSI) .

Recent surveys in Elson Creek have resulted in lower that normal returns for this time of year.  We should be seeing a couple thousand chum spawning in Elson  in the middle of December.  Tuesday December 11th survey had approxamately 377 live and 181 dead chum in the stream. WDFW Skookum and Little Creek counts have been low also.

Lower Fall Chum returns have been a trend through out South Puget Sound this year.  One factor that may be contributing to Elson Creek is the very low flows in stream.  Usually we see water flowing through the culvert that passes under Lynch Rd.  Currently the stream is dry a few hundred yards from the culvert.

Why Streamside Trees Help Salmon

Native trees and shrubs along stream corridors (riparian areas) are important for healthy salmon runs.

The Squaxin Island Tribe’s Natural Resources Department is doing what it can to restore riparian areas in order to protect salmon runs and create habitat for wildlife. In February of 2007 the Natural Resources Department implemented a stream bank restoration project on Skookum Creek next to a series of engineered log jams that were implemented by the Tribe as part of an in-stream restoration project. Approximately 1,500 live willow and dogwood stakes were planted in an effort to stabilize the bank and provide shade to the stream.

2007 Skookum Creek Riparian Restoration Project

2007 Skookum Creek Riparian Restoration Project

In March of 2007 The Department implemented a riparian restoration project along Skookum Creek between river miles 1-2. Over 2,000 native trees and shrubs were planted and an irrigation system was installed in order to increase survival rates. Survival rates the first year were 97 percent!

In February of 2008 The Department planted 400 native shrubs across from the 2007 stream bank restoration project site on Skookum Creek to continue restoration efforts along the Creek adjacent to the engineered log jams that were installed.

Skookum Creek Bank Restoration

Skookum Creek Bank Restoration

This month The Department has installed native shrubs at all the mentioned project sites as supplemental plantings to offset mortalities and in order to increase plant density and diversity.

Streamside vegetation provides shade, cover, and nutrient input. Additionally, trees eventually will contribute to wood recruitment in streams which is important for forming log jams, creating stream complexity and providing habitat for juvenile fish. As the wood ages and decomposes it also provides habitat for macro invertebrates (aquatic bugs) which is food for juvenile salmon and resident trout species. Streamside vegetation also provides bank stability and hinders sediment input which can be detrimental to salmon eggs in the gravel.

Riparian areas are also important to many other stream adjacent species such as otter, beaver, mink, and songbirds that rely on the stream for food and shelter. Additionally, intact riparian areas are important for many other species such as deer and elk as they utilize these green belts to migrate.

First Commercial Harvest On Squaxin Leased Tide Land

On November 20th the tribe had our first harvest on a piece of Tide land located in Oakland Bay leased from The Washington State Department of Natural Resources. 25 tribal members were given the opportunity to dig 180Ibs of manila clams using a hand held fork. The limit for this

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dig was increased in order to charge a small fee to help cover the cost of the lease. Most of the diggers were enthusiastically showed up at 4:00 am and

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dug their limit in the allowed time. This is a unique opportunity for tribal members since the tide land is leased and not an allocation of the Medicine Creek Treaty.

Tribal Fishery Feeds the State of Missouri

Early this October natural resources staff tagged 600 adult coho in Budd, Case and Hammersley Inlets with spaghetti tags. This easily visible tag is inserted just below the dorsal fin. Each tag contains a unique identification number and a phone number to the natural resources department.

Tag being inserted into an adult salmon.

These fish were captured by natural resources staff in the lower ends of the inlets in areas that are generally closed to Tribal fisheries during the coho managment season. The purpose of this study is to track when these fish move out of the inlets and where they ultimately end up.

More information on mangament for coho can be found at:

Fishing regulations and maps

Several weeks after tagging the Department began recieving calls from several grocery stores in St. Louis Missouri reporting Squaxin tags on salmon they were about to fillet. This was followed by a phone call from a fish processing plant in Missouri that had found numerous Squaxin tags in shipments of fish they were buying. According to the processing plant manager fish bought from South Puget Sound feed three quarters of the state of Missouri.