Coho Salmon have just ended their run to spawn in the various streams and tributaries along the Pacific Coast. Neal Maine and Katie Voelke from The North Coast Land Conservancy were kind enough to give me access, and guide me, to a stream on their property where the Coho spend the last few days of their life breeding and building redds for their eggs.
The stream flowed through a dark patch of forest, where the fish chose to spawn. It is surprising to see such large fish in such small water.
Once they return to fresh water from the ocean their bodies change rapidly. First they turn red, and then very quickly they begin to deteriorate. Males battle for access to eggs while females vigorously fan oxygen over the egg beds. All the while they get more scraped and torn up.
Despite constant rain and gloomy light, I spent hours watching the coho before I could figure out how to take photographs. This was an interesting opportunity to use my remote underwater camera. I controlled the camera position from the stream bank, and could observe the camera's viewfinder using a video monitor. I overpowered the darkness of the forest by using a radio remote (submerged with the camera) to trigger flash units stationed above stream. High water and storm debris made the water slightly cloudy.
But still, I'm pretty happy with resulting images.
The eggs will hatch in Spring - long after the adults have given their lives for the cause.
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