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Bear Creek salmon count better than last year

I’ve been following the Bear Creek counts of fall chinook salmon in Medford for a while, and I am a big fan of the fish counter, Jim Hutchins. He does so much for our community. But I haven’t heard this year how the counts went? I know the Rogue River had a down year for fall chinook, but how did Bear Creek fare?

— Tim, email submission

Well, Tim, Jim Hutchins has been at this fish-counting exercise on Bear Creek since 1994, and based on his statistics and opinion, 2020 was a decent year.

Hutchins counted 197 fall chinook this year, with the highest count of 64 coming Oct. 24. That’s a little late for the peak count, but most fish counts on the Rogue were a bit late this year.

The vast majority of those spawners, Hutchins says, were in the downtown Medford area.

The 197 spawning wild adult chinook in Bear Creek was more than last year’s 109 chinook, but the fewest since 2018, Hutchins’ records show.

This year’s returning chinook are progeny of those that spawned in 2017 and 2018, and those were some of the better years on record, Hutchins’ statistics show.

His highest count was 404 in 2014; his lowest was four in 1999.

Armed with waders, polarized sunglasses and his semi-famous wading staff, Hutchins walks portions of Bear Creek each fall to count migrating fall chinook as well as their egg nests, called redds.

Hutchins’ counts aren’t considered hard data. They are an index, used to compare years and unearth trends.

And, of course, fall chinook as long as a person’s leg are pretty cool to see in Bear Creek, despite its relatively poor water quality.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.