Endangered Salmon Return to Bay Area Waters for First Time Since 2004: 'Extremely Exciting'

Endangered salmon have returned to a group of California waterways for the first time in almost two decades.

Coho salmon, which can grow to two feet long, are being found in the waters of Montezuma Creek for the first time since 2004, and Larsen Creek for the first time since 2006. The fish have also been spotted in the San Geronimo Creek tributaries Arroyo Creek and Woodacre Creek.

There have also been a multitude of eyewitness reports of coho salmon spawning behavior from Marin County residents, according to the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN).

According to SPAWN, when the group started conducting surveys in the small tributaries of San Geronimo Creek in the 1990s, coho salmon were a regular sight in both Montezuma Creek and Larsen Creek.

Heavy rainfall in December 2021 and January provided the fish with a route to the San Geronimo Valley waterways, which have been inaccessible to the species in recent years because of man-made obstacles.

"This is extremely exciting and is the result of big storms that have let coho salmon maneuver through culverts under roads that are a barrier to migration under lower flows," SPAWN watershed biologist Ayano Hayes said in a media release.

Coho Salmon Seen in Montezuma Creek in Forest Knolls for first time in years!

SPAWN founder Todd Steiner is calling for existing culverts to be replaced.

"We need to protect creekside habitat, limit construction of new impervious surfaces, and continue to remove all barriers to fish migration by replacing our old culverts, many decades old and in need of repair with fish-friendly culverts," he said.

Since removing a dam on the former San Geronimo Valley golf course in 2021, SPAWN has said that it has found Chinook salmon in Woodacre Creek for the first time on record.

"We can bring back the salmon of Marin from the brink of extinction if we care enough to protect and restore habitat," said Steiner.

"We have the know-how and the State and federal agencies have offered the resources. It boils down to our local elected officials having the courage to enact the regulations that will protect the habitat the fish need to survive for our children and grandchildren."

Video of Coho Salmon spawning today in our just completed restoration on the former San Geronimo Golf Course.

In 2021, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife expressed fears that the Sacramento River's entire population of Chinook salmon might be wiped out due to a heat wave.

California state Senator Mike McGuire said that the species was "on the brink of a total species collapse due to the historic drought and arcane federal water policy."

The policy allows water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers to be used for agriculture purposes, making the species more vulnerable to hot weather.

Coho salmon leaping out of a river
Coho salmon are being found in the waters of Montezuma Creek and Larsen Creek for the first time since 2004 and 2006. DaveOxford/iStock