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Fishing for salmon yields rare find of anchovies

Zach Doobovsky is home-schooled but he is taking Running Start classes at Olympic College in Bremerton.

The 17-year-old has courses in environmental chemistry and a biology of the Pacific Northwest on his transcript already. This fall quarter he is enrolled in professor Don Seavy’s marine science.

“I like these classes because they’re interactive,” Doobovsky said. “I don’t like to be in the classroom that much.”

Wednesday afternoon’s field trip to the mouth of Barker Creek at Tracyton Avenue in Silverdale was the kind of thing that would have made his day. Except he forgot about it. That did not stop him from taking his socks off before the nearly 30 OC students made their way to the shore of Dyes Inlet.

He said he hadn’t planned on getting into the water but an hour into the excursion, he emerged from the inlet with his jeans soaked up to the knees.

Doobovsky had been pulling the seine, a type of fine fishing net, helping biologist Paul Dorn and his assistants.

“We’re trying to get a feel for the type of critters ... that are using the nearshore,” said Dorn, salmon recovery coordinator for the Suquamish Tribe.

The OC students were there to observe a beach seining, named so after the net used in the process.

Seavy explained they were looking for endangered species, hatchery and wild salmon, as well as food sources the two types of fish could be competing over.

The seining was part of a monitoring effort in preparation for a culvert replacement which the Chums of Barker Creek non-profit organization hopes will be completed this summer.

But the outing turned out to be rather an exciting event.

“Oh, wow, we’ve got (anchovy) fish,” said Dorn when the net was pulled in. “Wait ‘till you guys see. This is cool,” he told the students peering over from the dryer part of the beach.

Northern anchovies were spotted a few weeks ago near Bainbridge Island where Dorn said there are regular beach seining checks. On Wednesday, 1,804 2-to-3-inch northern anchovies were counted at the mouth of Barker Creek. But the small fish have not been abundant in the Puget Sound area in about 100 years, Dorn explained.

Their re-appearance is still a mystery for scientists to explore. The important thing now is that they are here.

“What was amazing was that every one of the salmon had an anchovy in their gut,” he said.

Holding a 2-year-old male coho salmon in his hands, Dorn showed to students the anchovy in its mouth.

“This is the food chain in operation here,” he said.

Something — perhaps a seal, Dorn speculated — had tried to eat one of the coho salmon caught in the net. He held up the fish, showing the teeth marks in its body. The salmon and a cutthroat trout, also munching on an anchovy, kept slipping from Dorn’s hands and landing in the grassy water at his feet with a splash and a thud.

A female coho he held up had regurgitated a northern

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