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Meet the Salmon


Hood Canal supports a population of threatened summer chum salmon recognized by scientists as unique due to their distinctive life history and genetic traits and is also home to threatened Chinook salmon and bull trout. The watershed is also home to Coho and pink salmon, fall and winter chum, summer and winter steelhead, searun cutthrout and rainbow trout.

 
Chum Salmon
 
Chinook
 
Bull Trout
 
Coho
 
Pink
 
Steelhead
 
Cutthroat
 
Salmon images courtesy of King County. Steelhead image courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.
 
How Summer Chum Use the Water Bodies

 
Summer chum salmon are the earliest returning chum salmon stocks in the Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca region. Summer chum spawning occurs from mid-August through September, generally within the lowest few miles of streams. Summer chum adults may mill in front of their stream of origin for up to ten to twelve days before entering freshwater to spawn.

Eight existing summer chum salmon population aggregations have been identified and targeted for recovery. These eight tend to be associated with the following river systems in Hood Canal: Big Quilcene and Little Quilcene Rivers, Dosewallips River, Duckabush River, Hama Hama River, Lilliwaup River, Union River and in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca; Jimmycomelately Creek, Salmon Creek, and Snow Creek.

Summer chum can often be found in other Hood Canal drainages in low numbers, but are likely associated with one of the eight identified populations. However, straying and potential colonization by these populations may be important to the long-term viability of this unique salmon species. It is also important to note that re-introduction efforts are currently underway in Chimacum Creek, Big Beef Creek, and the Tahuya River, and have been very successful to date.

Most summer chum salmon juveniles spend little time in freshwaters, instead preferring to emigrate early in their life cycle. Past and more recent studies indicate that these juveniles spend time in their natal estuarine deltas and, significantly, in more remote nearshore tidal marsh complexes as they migrate to the open ocean environment.

Watershed
Summer Chum Salmon and the Hood Canal Watershed

 

 

For more information about salmon recovery planning in this watershed, click here.

Click here to read this watershed's feedback summary for Chum.

Click here to read this watershed's feedback summary for Chinook.

 

Key Facts
 

Land ownership in the watershed is 48% federal and includes portions of Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest, 39% private, 12% state and local, and 1% Tribal trust lands.

Hood Canal is 62 miles long by boat with the HCCC covering a total of about 358 miles of shoreline. This is about 15% of the total inland marine shoreline, or 25% of Puget Sound proper.

Hood Canal spans Mason, Jefferson and Kitsap Counties. The summer chum salmon ESU, along with Hood Canal Counties, also includes an eastern portion of Clallam County where it overlaps with Jimmycomelately Creek and the Dungeness River.

The only major city in the watershed is Port Townsend.

Projected population growth for Jefferson County is 43% between 2000 and 2020 and 41% and 54% for Mason and Kitsap Counties respectively.

The planning area for the summer chum salmon ESU includes parts of Watershed Resource Inventory Area (WRIA)’s 14, 15, 17 and 18 and all of WRIA 16.

   

Located in western Washington, Hood Canal is not really a canal at all but rather a picturesque glacial fjord that sits in the shape of a backwards checkmark between Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. Five major rivers with upper reaches protected inside Olympic National Park flow east into Hood Canal. The Dosewallips, Duckabush, Hama Hama, Skokomish, and Big Quilcene rivers mix with the waters of countless smaller streams and creeks that flow west from the Kitsap Peninsula. Endowed with an abundance of biologically-rich estuaries, Hood Canal produces Pacific oysters, known world-wide for their unique flavor, as well as a smorgasbord of other shellfish, crab and shrimp.

When George Vancouver sailed into Hood Canal in the spring of 1792, he wrote about the fjord’s “pristine stillness,” and how nature’s “awful silence was only now and then interrupted by the croaking of a raven, the breathing of a seal, or the scream of an eagle.” Today, visitors and residents can still hear ravens, seals and eagles along with traffic sounds along Highway 101 on the western shore. People still enjoy this area for its natural beauty and opportunities for crabbing, hiking, kayaking, fishing and relaxing.

Hood Canal recovery efforts focus most directly on threatened summer chum, however most actions that benefit chum also benefit threatened Chinook in the watershed. These recovery efforts involve the entire summer chum salmon evolutionarily significant unit (ESU), which includes several watersheds draining into the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Major Policy or Actions Needed to Recover Salmon

Key to Summer Chum Recovery Are Lower River Rehabilitation and Shoreline and Estuary Protection and Restoration
Due to the life history of summer chum, Hood Canal recovery actions center on nearshore areas and the lower few miles of freshwater river habitats of Hood Canal and the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. Restoration of the larger estuaries on the western shore of Hood Canal has been a major focus, while recent updates of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council’s Salmon Habitat Recovery Strategy have emphasized the need to expand to the other natal summer chum salmon estuaries of the Kitsap Peninsula and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In addition to natal estuarine deltas and their associated wetlands, recovery planners have identified hundreds of recovery actions in the nearshore and smaller estuaries of the region. Prioritization of these projects is underway through review and update of the Salmon Habitat Recovery Strategy.

The staffs of Mason, Jefferson and Kitsap counties are currently working collaboratively with the tribes and the Hood Canal Coordinating Council to 1) review land use, growth management and critical areas regulations related to summer chum salmon habitat, 2) assess future build-out expected in the nearshore over the next 20 years, 3) evaluate where the regulatory structure works and where there is conflict and 4) identify action alternatives that can address conflicts and foster protection and restoration.

Landowner Involvement and Incentives
The protections afforded the upper reaches of the five major rivers that flow into the western shore of Hood Canal as a result of U.S. Forest Service riparian reserves and U.S. National Park Service efforts are an important advantage for salmon recovery in this region. Most of the land along the nearhore and in the estuaries, however, is in private hands. In setting priorities for the next 5 to 10 years, involvement and incentives for private land owners are critical. Several education and outreach projects designed to assist private landowners along marine nearshores to become more “salmon habitat friendly,” are underway.

Addressing Highway 101
Highway 101 runs the entire length of the west shore and through Hood Canal’s largest and most valuable estuaries and disrupts sediments which maintain nearshore habitats. With the objective of rehabilitation of Hood Canal’s estuaries, marine nearshores and lower river habitats, examination of options for re-configuring Highway 101 is a priority for future decision making and action.

 

We’re Making Progress—Some Accomplishments

Watershed Restoration Groups
The continued development and improved effectiveness of locally-based watershed restoration groups has been a major driver in efforts to protect and restore vast swaths of critical habitats. Examples include the Chumsortium’s work in the Snow/Salmon and Chimacum watersheds, the Dosewallips Restoration Team, the Skokomish River Restoration Team, and the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group’s efforts in the Union, Tahuya, and Dewatto watersheds.

Major Estuary Restoration
At least seven major projects are underway to restore critical estuarine habitat. These include removal of levees, borrow ditches and tidegates to allow disconnected and degraded salt marshes to recover in the Skokomish, Union, and Dosewallips estuaries. Significant acquisition efforts to allow for future restoration continue in the Union, Dosewallips, Big and Little Quilcenes, and Snow/Salmon estuaries. Natural functions and processes are being restored in the Chimacum estuary through removal of fill and riprap. Work has begun in the Duckabush estuary to model potential alternatives and their associated benefits for reconfiguring the SR101 causeway.

Successful Protection Effort Spawns More Protection
The Hood Canal Salmon Sanctuary (HCSS) has protected more than 1,000 acres of salmon habitat over its nearly 10 year history, focused mostly on the Kitsap Peninsula. The interest developing in the area continues to leverage efforts to maintain and increase these habitats, and is supported by the transition of the HCSS to a larger, more robust group of individuals and agencies under the title of the Hood Canal Alliance.

Organizations Involved

  • Hood Canal Coordinating Council
  • Jefferson County
  • Kitsap County
  • Mason County
  • Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe
  • Skokomish Tribe

 

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