Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project

Salmon Spawning Surveys

Adult male (top) and female Chum salmon; Oct 26, 2015
Adult male (top) and female Chum salmon. Photo taken on the Carkeek Park Beach at the mouth of Piper’s Creek; Oct 26, 2015.

Returning Salmon Spawners

Adult Chum salmon begin returning each year to Pipers Creek at the end of October to the beginning of November after spending 3-5 years feeding in the Pacific Ocean.

Visit this website for an overview of a Timeline for Life Cycle, Growth, and Survival.

Spawning Survey & Count

Each Fall, Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project (CWCAP) enters the creeks and tributaries in the Pipers Creek Watershed to collect data from the salmon that naturally die after returning to the system. The primary objective is to determine the relative spawning success of salmon in Piper’s Creek and its largest tributary, Venema Creek. Spawning success over time is one measure of the health of the salmon run and the health of the creeks.

Deceased Chum salmon are sampled to determine spawning success. They are either fully spawned, partially spawned, unspawned, or undetermined.

Each Tuesday and Saturday beginning in late October to early November until the end of the salmon run (1st or 2nd week of December) you will see CWCAP volunteers collecting data from deceased salmon. Data is compiled and submitted to local agencies to help understand the status of salmon in our urban creeks. Say hello when you’re at the park on Saturdays this fall. We start in the estuary on the beach at 9:00am and work our way up Piper’s then Venema Creek. We are in the streams 2.5 to 5 hours, depending on the number of salmon.

For more detailed information related to this survey, contact

  • Gender ratio refers to all fish that could both be species identified and sex determined. Many species are identified, but sex cannot be determined (e.g., too old or too scavenged), and so are not included in the Gender ratio analysis.
  • Part & Full spawned refers to all fish that could be species identified, sex determined, and determined if fully spawned, partially spawned, or unspawned. Many fish are identified and sex determined, but spawning success cannot be determined (e.g., too old or too scavenged), and so are not included in the Part & Full spawned analysis.
  • Storm water flow rate: extreme energy and water volume associated with storm water moves dead adult salmon from the system to Puget Sound. Fish flushed from the system cannot be estimated and are not represented in this data.
  • Predators/Scavengers: many salmon carcasses are found each Fall in the brush and wooded areas near the creeks.  Without a comprehensive search, it is likely that the survey team misses numerous carcasses during surveys due to predators and/or scavengers that drag salmon from the near-creek vicinity and are therefore not represented in the data.
  • This data represents all fish encountered and processed that have already died after entering Piper’s Creek and Venema Creek. Each Chum salmon dies in more or less 10 days after entering Pipers Creek’s freshwater, whether spawned or not. Since this survey opens each dead fish by incision along the belly to examine its relative spawning success, we can be certain that fish haven’t been double-counted from one week to another.
  • * Resident and sea-run cutthroat trout are not part of the current survey design. The methods used in this survey do not accurately sample for the presence of resident cutthroat trout, but are listed here as incidental information only.
  • Fish are sampled from dead carcasses taken from Pipers Creek and Venema Creek and returned to sample location.
CWCAP survey crew (left to right): Tim (T.R.) Ricord, Lilli Hills, Alanna Sutton, Rick Henry (with male Chum salmon), Phil Kuhar, Matthew Kuhar, Spencer Fisco, Kat Krohn, Allison Bachner ; Carkeek Park, 11-24-18

CWCAP is a very local group of volunteers that also accomplishes the rearing, imprinting and release of  nearly 100,000 fish at the Imprinting Facility every year – many of which return 3-5 years later in the autumn to spawn. We could not do it, of course, without the Suquamish Tribe’s Grovers Creek Salmon Hatchery, SPU, Parks, Fish & Wildlife, the indomitable Carkeek Park Advisory Council (CPAC) and all the volunteers that help this park along to being the special place that it is.

Salmon Stewards

Carkeek Park Salmon Stewards are a community of local volunteers trained to welcome, engage, educate, and inspire park visitors drawn by the annual Piper’s Creek salmon run. They can be found in Carkeek Park on weekends (Saturdays & Sundays) 11am – 2pm, 1st week of  November until the 1st week of December.  Look for blue-vested stewards.  They’ll know where the fish are, how many there are, and a lot about how there came to be a spawning population of Chum salmon in Piper’s Creek Watershed.  Be sure to bring your family and friends.  They’ll want to see these fish returning to spawn!  The Salmon Stewards Program is brought to you by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).