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Look for chinook in Bear Creek after a rain

My husband and I spent an hour at Hawthorne Park without seeing a salmon in Bear Creek. Your story on Saturday said Jim Hutchins saw 404 salmon last year, but the amount of time he watched was absent. Did it take him a week, a month, or more to inventory that many? Is there a better time of day than another to see them?

—Daphne, Medford

Well, Daphne, spotting fall chinook salmon moving up Bear Creek can be tricky business in downtown Medford, particularly now as it is early in the run.

The chinook were present and visible as late as last Saturday from the bike path through Hawthorne Park, but they've been unseen there since then, says Jim Hutchins, the Oregon Stewardship naturalist who also has been the unofficial salmon-counter in Bear Creek the past 21 falls.

"They were up past the 10th Street bridge Friday and Saturday (last week), but there's been nothing since then," Hutchins says. "I checked Monday and didn't see anything."

Those chinook likely have moved into deeper water and are doing their best now to remain invisible until spawning time, he says.

The best time to see chinook in Bear Creek is when they're on the move, and that normally comes after a rain or some other event that sees flows increase in the creek, Hutchins says.

They're best seen at places like the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District diversion, where they can be viewed finning over the diversion's concrete base that remains after the diversion boards are pulled. Go in the morning and wear polarized glasses that reduce glare.

Hutchins walks parts of Bear Creek at least once a week from late September through October to count chinook. While his counts aren't scientific and can't lead to an estimate in the numbers of chinook in the creek annually, they provide an index to gauge relative abundance and timing of the creek's chinook run year to year.

—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. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.