Enumeration of spawning salmon within watersheds provides information helpful in assessment and management of salmon stocks including identification of future enhancement opportunities. However, it is recognized that accurate salmon counts are often impossible to obtain due to poor visibility as a result of autumn rains causing high water turbidity. Coho salmon, in particular, often rest close to stream banks under tree roots and logs making them especially difficult to see. Consequently, only a rough index of coho abundance is possible to obtain.
Five teams of two volunteers were each assigned a specific stream section and were asked to survey it once a week from late October until as late as practicable in December. Surveying was done in pairs for safety and ease in recording data. Counts of live and dead salmon as well as redds were recorded.
2016 was a particularly challenging year for counting spawning salmon due to frequent rain storms throughout October and November. As a result, visibility was often difficult and dangerously high water flows led to cancellations of surveys on some weeks.
The high-light of the season was the record abundance of chum salmon. This species typically spawns mainly in the lower Millard mainstem up to Highway 19A. However, chum were seen upstream of the highway including in the new Trib. 1 channel and as far up Piercy Creek as the section behind Piercy Creek Estates between 20th Street and Cumberland Road. The number of chum salmon was roughly estimated at between 1,000 and 2,000. According to Brian Burbridge, who has lived adjacent to Millard Creek since 1968, the chum run in 2016 was unprecedented.
An estimate of the number of coho salmon spawning is not possible due to poor visibility and few counts due to high water. Spawning is normally concentrated in two areas: the section of Millard Creek as it crosses Millard Meadows Farm before entering the adjacent property then up to the entrance to the Millard side channel and the section of Piercy Creek behind Piercy Creek Estates. In 2016, coho were observed in the Piercy Creek Estates area mixed with chum salmon on several occasions. Only one survey in the upper section of Millard Creek was done with 3 coho spotted in the Millard Meadows section. Scattered spawning also occurred in other areas where there are patches of suitable gravel.