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Volunteers keep an eye on stream health

Mabel Moses, 12, and Vera Moses, 8, look for salmon in a short stretch of Judd Creek. The two volunteer with the Salmon Watcher Program. - Natalie Martin/Staff Photo
Mabel Moses, 12, and Vera Moses, 8, look for salmon in a short stretch of Judd Creek. The two volunteer with the Salmon Watcher Program.
— image credit: Natalie Martin/Staff Photo

When John Martinak signed up for the Vashon Nature Center’s Salmon Watchers Program last fall, he wasn’t convinced he’d actually see a salmon. A busy stay-at-home dad of two boys, he enjoyed the forced downtime that visits to his “watching spot” along Judd Creek afforded him. But the water seemed too shallow and the obstacles too big for a salmon to manage — once an avid fly fisherman, he had an eye for such things. Martinak looked forward to the peaceful breaks, though he was still skeptical about seeing a fish — until one day when he heard something new.

“I could hear this splashing way downstream, but I thought it was probably something else,” he said. “Then a half-hour later, I was amazed to see a fish come by. I expected it to be more of a frenzied activity, but the fish was methodical. It would scout out the next hurdle and clear it, then keep on going.”

Martinak eventually counted 12 coho salmon as they made their way along a restored section of Vashon’s largest creek. He had the best luck during the worst weather, so if it was stormy, he’d head to the spot in hopes of glimpsing another fish.

Unfortunately, the relative lack of wet fall weather (remember all that November sunshine?) probably played a roll in the low numbers of returning salmon to island creeks in 2013; the fish depend on rain to fill the creeks and allow them easier passage.

After a 2012 count of more than 200 fish (alive and dead) and 46 redds (salmon spawning sites), the best numbers reported since 2003, hopes were high for another great

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