Spawning Coho Salmon!

by | Nov 18, 2015

A quick post because I’m supposed to be taking a vacation, and you know how it is with us workaholics, so I sort of cheated. Top photo and bottom video were shot with my phone, and only the male coho was shot with my work camera.

Last week I was hiking along the Greenwater River in Pierce County, Washington looking for wild mushrooms to photograph and I came upon a couple dozen spawning coho salmon (and possibly some sockeye – it’s hard to tell sometimes). I got remarkably close to this fella and shot this with a macro lens because I didn’t have anything else with me. I thought it was pretty cool, especially as I’m involved with the Salmon Watchers program in King County as a volunteer, and getting such a close good look was great for my outdoor education.

Click to Enlarge

Spawning Coho Salmon

Spawning Male Coho Salmon

Male coho salmon (also called a silver salmon) spawning in the Greenwater River in Pierce County, Washington far up in the Cascade Mountains. Coho males in this final part of their life cycle have bright red “cheeks” and have tails that are in relatively good shape compared to their female counterparts who often have pure white tails from losing all their scales and even skin from digging out a nest in the gravel to lay their eggs. This one was taking a rest near the shore behind a fallen tree that was creating a sort of calm in the otherwise fast-moving alpine river.

Female Coho Salmon in the Greenwater River

(Sorry about the quality – it was filmed with my phone)

Female coho salmon in the Greenwater River way up in the Cascade Mountains yesterday. She spent 4-5 years in the Pacific Ocean and came all the way back to this part of the river to lay her eggs. Her tail is completely white from using it to dig a sort of nest in the gravel (called a redd) and in the process lost all of her scales and much of her skin. This is very typical and common. Like all spawning Pacific salmon, she will die shortly after her reproduction duties are complete, and the long journey up into the mountains usually results in some rather beat up fish.

How to Get There?

Just follow the map to the Greenwater Lakes Trailhead and follow the only trail southeast for about a mile, and in October/November there will be plenty of wild salmon to see!


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