November 18th, 2002

He Made a Difference
By James Castwell


It was just after the first of October, this year, I got a phone call from Al, he said there was a big problem on the creek. This is a local creek here, with a native run of Chum Salmon due to enter the stream about the first week in November and peak out by the 15th or so. Now Al had been 'hawking' the stream for a few days, he likes to be on top of things when it comes to catching salmon. This time it was a fortunate thing he did. He said the water had come through the box culvert so fast in the spring that it had dug a big pit on the downstream side and the fish would not be able to jump up to the edge of the floor of the culvert. If they did make it up, there was only about an inch of water over the floor of it anyway, the things would have to walk upstream.

It was only a few miles from me so I took off to get some pictures and see for myself. He seemed to be right, that edge looked pretty high to me too. Chum can jump but are not the greatest salmon at it. As soon as I got home I called one of my friends on the Washington State Fisheries Commission (WSFC). Not only was this a place Al and I had fished for many years, but the fellow I called, I knew had fished it too.

BEFORE

My friend at the WSFC said I would get a call from a field officer very soon, I did, the next day. He knew of the stream and the box culvert but did not know there had been a washout. He explained that the culvert was the responsibility of the local county road commission. Sorry to say, my heart sank and I told him so. We had about two weeks to make a fix of some sort, at least temporarily so the salmon could get up to the head waters to spawn.

He said one way was to run two strings of sand-bags across the stream, raising the water level in short stages, but there were other ways to fix it as well. He assured me that he would see that something would be done. I was somewhat relieved, but still a bit shaky about the county getting it done, or doing it right. In all fairness, due to the very high fluctuations of our tides here, as much as twelve feet, there may have been enough water flowing for the salmon to make it up the stream at high tide, approximately one hour a day.

A few days later Al called me again on his cell-phone, he was at the creek as was his daily habit now. He said some guys from the county were there but they were going to put some iron rails on the floor of the culvert or something. Guess it was supposed to raise the level of water across the floor from one inch to about four. They had busted up two beaver dams upstream also, seemed to help water come down and let the fish get up. There were going to be two openings in the rails at the lip of the culvert on the downstream edge. The idea was that water would plow through and over at those points and the fish could swim right up the shaft of water. Well, it might work.

By Friday the eighth of November the state had counted over 11,000 chum salmon that made it over that lip and upstream. As I write this on the eleventh, the salmon are still going up and there are more on the way. This is a natural spawning run of native fish and should be protected at all reasonable costs. There is fishing allowed at the mouth, the estuary actually, you can keep two a day. It is not a difficult fishery to handle and many learn how to catch their first salmon at streams like this all over our state.

AFTER

I want to thank the County Road Commission, the fellow from the state, my friend from the WSFC, but most importantly I want to thank Al. If he had not called and got the ball rolling we could have very easily lost a whole age class of native salmon.

One person did make a difference. Thanks Al. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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