For the first time in five years, chinook salmon are being seen in the Lagunitas watershed — a hopeful sign that federally endangered coho salmon will have a strong run this winter.
Chinook salmon — also known as king salmon — are not always spotted in Marin's creeks, but when they do appear they generally are accompanied by a strong run of coho.
"What we have seen is that when resident coho populations do well, we see other species doing well," said Eric Ettlinger, aquatic ecologist for the Marin Municipal Water District.
The chinook salmon are native to the Central Valley, but seem to have lost their way and ended up in Lagunitas Creek, Ettlinger said. It's possible that they were spawned in a hatchery and they don't know where home can be found. The chinook and coho salmon generally return to the streams in which they were born after returning from the ocean.
"These may not have a strong homing instinct," Ettlinger said.