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Since You Asked: Chinook made a big splash this year

I have been very interested in the salmon counts done in Bear Creek by Mr. Jim Hutchins. Is he finished with the counts this year, and how did the creek's fish runs fare?

— E.E., email submission

The man known as "Hutch" has wrapped up his 17th year of doing fall chinook salmon counts, and this year he logged a better-than-average 120 spawning salmon throughout Bear Creek, a major Rogue River tributary running through the five largest Jackson County cities, including Medford.

Big, wild chinook spawning in the shadows of downtown Medford have always provided a spectacle for city residents. Some of the best places to see these fish are behind the Rogue Valley Mall, from the Jackson Street and Main Street bridges and at Lynn Newbry Park in Talent.

But a new place to spy spawning chinook this year was North Mountain Park in Ashland, where recent work to put spawning gravels in Ashland Creek there paid dividends.

Seventeen fall chinook were spotted spawning there, Hutchins says.

For years, biologists believed the fish ladder near Oak Street was the farthest that spawning chinook went up the creek during the fall.

"I don't know how they made it, but they made it," Hutchins says.

Hutchins' counts are used like an index to compare year-to-year run strengths and weaknesses and not as a numerical estimate of overall spawning numbers in the Bear Creek Basin.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.