From above, Sonoma Creek is quiet and serene. But below the surface it teems with life, as shown in video footage taken earlier this month by Sonoma Ecology Center Senior Scientist and Research Program Manager Steven Lee.
The footage was taken as Steve and fellow researcher Wendy Hayes, SEC’s Research Project Manager, spent three days making snorkeling-based fish surveys along a reach of Sonoma Creek. As the video shows, they saw sculpin, steelhead, crayfish, California roach, and the endangered California freshwater shrimp, among many other species.
A “reach” is a part of a stream or river where similar hydrologic conditions exist, and the reach our team surveyed “is a critical transition zone in the watershed between the warmer water conditions of the lower watershed and the cooler conditions of upper Sonoma Creek,” Steve explained. By documenting species in this reach, Steve and Wendy are working to support better long-term protection of this critical piece of the Sonoma Creek watershed.
This was an informal survey by professional biologists, not a population study. Throughout the roughly one-mile reach of Sonoma Creek the team documented:
-379 endangered California freshwater shrimp
-102 steelhead young
-16 steelhead subadults
-1 adult steelhead
-1 juvenile pacific lamprey
-119 riffle sculpins
-586 Sacramento suckers
-Too many California roach to count
-237 crayfish, mostly signal crayfish
-7 large bullfrog tadpoles
“It was great to see so many juvenile steelhead and freshwater shrimp in this reach,” Steve said. “And these data are clearly underestimates of the true numbers due to methodological limitations. But we now have a better feel for the microhabitats where these species can be found.”
It’s important to note that this is not an invitation to go fishing in Sonoma Creek! Many of these species are endangered, and it is illegal to so much as bother a steelhead, let alone catch one.