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Sonoma County Gazette
Coho Spawning.
Coho Spawning. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.

The First Confirmed Sighting of an
Adult Coho Salmon in Sheephouse Creek

Dec 27, 2018
by Tim McKusick


Happy New Year from the dramatic and blustery Sonoma Coast! The creeks are flowing and the seas are pounding, Big Time! The mouth of the Russian River has closed and breached several times over the past month. The monster waves hitting our coast are pushing over the River-meets-the-ocean sand bar and flooding the low-lying areas of the Estuary. Here is news from the experts:

Ann DuBay 

Administrator, Petaluma Valley & Sonoma Valley

Groundwater Sustainability Agencies

(707) 524-8378 (office)

(707) 322-8185 (cell)

Spokesperson for the Sonoma County Water Agency, who monitors the River mouth continuously (via a camera mounted on the hill) keeps the public informed of any flooding-related emergencies and also if the SCWA plans any ‘mechanical breaching’ of the river mouth, affecting the resident pinnipeds. beach-goers and kayakers safety.

Very Exciting News for fans of the Coho Salmon who once called our River Estuary-perched streams home. We have the first confirmed sighting of an Adult Coho Salmon in Sheephouse Creek!!   Sheephouse, one of the first streams inland from the river mouth, benefits from the higher water levels of the estuary, as it floods the small confluence of creek and river, allowing (and encouraging) the fish, struggling to call it home, to at least access their home-stream. 

Nicolas Bauer

Fisheries Scientist

Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program 

Sea Grant Extension Program, University of California 

600 American Way Ste 1 

Windsor, CA 95492 

Phone: (707) 687-0996 




Nicolas and his crew while performing their Adult Fish Survey in Sheephouse Creek on December 12, 2018 were very pleased to see an adult Female Coho Salmon.

As per Bauer “We have seen a couple of Redds and a couple of carcasses before, but never a definite live Coho. Hopefully, she can hang around long enough, ‘til Sunday when we expect rains; maybe a Male will join her.”

These winter estuary-flooding events are a blessing in disguise, from the Sheephouse Coho’s point of view, as the slab of concrete in the streambed from the failed CalTrans culvert’s wing-wall was underwater and no longer an obstruction to migration.

CalTrans had planned on repairing and replacing this culvert located at the critical confluence of Sheephouse and the River, late in the Summer, but right about when they were staged and prepared, the river mouth closed for the first time, putting the slab underwater and the project on hold. Reports are that CalTrans has stabilized the creek and riverbanks to hold the area together over the Winter until they can reschedule the culvert wing-wall replacement next year.

The appearance of this adult Coho Salmon shows us that we have so much reason for rejoicing at this special time of the year. At a time when we really need a ray of hope, during these seemingly dark days for the environment, the female Coho’s appearance could not be more timely.

Our Lady Coho and her offspring still have a job on their hands finding suitable habitat farther upstream, as the logging of the private lands between the Federally-protected Estuary and the now-protected Headwaters of Sheephouse Creek in the Jenner Headlands preserve, has increased in recent months.

I have a huge respect for the property owners who own these parcels being logged. Some are generations-deep Sonoma County families who have called these near-coastal ranches home for many decades. I also have a huge respect for the scientists who have proven that leaving the older trees and thinning the brush and sucker-trees (as they have pledged to do in the Jenner Headlands Preserve) will recharge the streambed aquafers, while sequestering the carbon at a far greater rate than young trees, a far greater rate. And reducing fire dangers significantly compared to current logging practices.

We have to get real here, folks. Just as in the movement to reduce plastic use, refusing to take a single-use plastic straw seems insignificant in ‘the big picture’, and harvesting one more mature Redwood from a small logging plot seems unlikely to make a huge difference in oxygen production and carbon sequestration, we have to start somewhere.

Perhaps we need to start a Go-Fund-Me account to buy these private lands and put them into the protection of the Jenner Headlands Preserve. Remember that the Jenner Headlands Preserve started in just such a manner. Concerned Citizens.

Go COHO! Happy New Year! Remember to respect our beautiful and powerful ocean; never turn your back on it.

Jenner Jotting by Tim McKusick








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