Santa Cruz County

Rain Helping Local Creeks, Endangered Fish Populations

Mouth of Scott Creek finally open after being bare

NEAR DAVENPORT, Calif. - Many fish on the Central Coast haven't been able to migrate because it has been so dry. But the rainfall over the last several days has actually helped the steelhead trout and Coho salmon populations.

Scott Creek near Davenport finally saw water flowing through its mouth Sunday morning. It was bare before the rain, two months behind schedule.

"We're normally opened up in December, so fish for the first time now have had the opportunity to move upstream," said Joseph Kiernan, a research fisheries biologist for National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz.

Every day, he and his crew track the steelhead and Coho salmon populations. Monday was the first time the creek level touched far above their ankles, where it had been.

"These fish have been captured in the box here, so we're just taking them out and placing them in this temporary holding bin and then from here they're going to go on the length board," Kiernan said.

Just today, they caught three of the first wild steelhead of the year making their way to spawn.

After tagging the fish, the crew released them, so they can finally migrate.

"The fact that we were able to catch three fish this morning suggests to me that probably a lot more came in because they could've also went over the main stem so that's hopefully good news," said Sean Hayes, research fisheries biologist for National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz.

Even though the rain has helped the creeks significantly, it's still hard to tell how things could look a month from now if the Central Coast doesn't get more rain.

The researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how many fish came through, but estimate between 10 to 30 came since Sunday night. They check the creek at least least once a day and often two to three times a day during high weather conditions to keep the trap maintained.

The fish are tagged with chips as juveniles, so even if they got past the traps they can still figure out if they returned. That could take a few days for them to figure out.

Steelhead populations spawn from January all the way into April locally. Coho is a big concern in the short term with the drought. Their spawning season has a very short time window.

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