There seem to be adult steelhead now in Bear Creek. Is this true?
— Marie W., Medford
It's possible that there are some adult summer steelhead migrating in Bear Creek, but what you saw in the creek, Marie, are most likely fall chinook salmon.
Bear Creek is a major spawning tributary for fall chinook that migrate into the upper Rogue River each late summer and fall. They spawn in the system clear up to Ashland Creek, a major Bear Creek tributary.
Normally this is the time of year you will see big fall chinook in the creek, despite its often muddy water. Summer steelhead do spawn in the Bear Creek system, but that's not until winter, Marie.
Naturalist Jim Hutchins is Bear Creek's unofficial keeper of the chinook counts. He walks the stream regularly counting the fish he sees, as well as egg nests called redds.
Hutchins started checking for chinook last week and saw four adults behind Rogue Valley Mall.
It will take a little freshet to raise Bear Creek's flows enough to entice fall chinook to enter the creek from the upper Rogue and migrate farther up the system.
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