Newaukum 'Fish Fling' helps habitat

Misty Blair gets an arm full of a large salmon. She was part of a team returning carcasses to the creek last week near Enumclaw.. Photo by Brenda Sexton. -
Misty Blair gets an arm full of a large salmon. She was part of a team returning carcasses to the creek last week near Enumclaw.. Photo by Brenda Sexton.
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By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

It was a bright, beautiful fall day Thursday. Perfect weather for a "fish fling."

The blue pickup backed up to Newaukum Creek just off 236th Ave. Southeast in Enumclaw Thursday and dropped its tailgate. Four young Washington Conservation Corps workers clad in rainwear, waders and thick Playtex gloves jumped to work hoisting heavy, slimy, dead salmon from the truck and hurling them into the stream.

"Fish fling" is the best way to describe what the Mid-Puget Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group asks volunteers to do to help them complete the cycle of life for salmon in Plateau streams.

The technical term is carcass distribution.

Two hundred Chinook salmon carcasses, approximately 30 at any one site, were laid to rest along the shores of Newaukum Creek between 244th and 236th, on either side of Marler Park, Thursday. Fifty more were dumped into the water over the Green River Bridge.

"We don't want to overload the system," project manager Fiona McNair said.

McNair explained this is the fourth year for the event.

The nutrients from adult salmon carcasses provide an essential food source for juvenile salmon as well as other predators and insects, McNair said. Research in streams proves that juvenile salmonids containing more marine-derived nitrogen grow faster and have higher survival rates with the aid of nutrient-rich salmon carcasses than those without.

The Mid-Sound mission is carried out through restoring salmon spawning and repairing habitat on private and public property. Projects include planting native vegetation along streams, adding spawning gravel to streams, restoring refuge areas (side-channels and wetlands), removing passage barriers and nutrient enhancement to increase food for juveniles.

The group also works to educate the community by involving volunteers in habitat restoration projects like carcass distribution as well as removing fish passage barriers, planting native trees and shrubs along streams, creating side-channels for over-wintering habitat for juvenile salmon, fencing livestock from streams and installing in-stream structures (large woody debris) to create diversity in the streams.

Mid-Sound has focused much of its efforts on the Green River and its tributary, Newaukum Creek, since 1991, because of its value as salmonid habitat and the opportunities it presents for restoration.

The carcass distribution is an on-going fall project for the Mid-Puget Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, which will be running carcass distributions every Tuesday and Thursday through Oct. 16 for the Chinook run and Nov. 4 through 25 for the Coho run.

Volunteers are needed. Rainwear and gloves can be supplied if necessary. Volunteers with trucks are in high demand. Fish Flings are during regular work hours, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone interested in participating can contact McNair at 206-290-3706 or

Brenda Sexton can be reached at

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