Manna of the Northwest

Here’s how my coauthor, Bob Armstrong, introduced Southeast anadromous fish in the 3rd edition of Nature of Southeast Alaska (2014):

Sampling of anadromous fish of Southeast Alaska.

Salmon, trout, char, stickleback, and sculpin complete the list for most of Southeast Alaska’s fresh waters. In freshwater systems with sea access, sculpin and stickleback may be the only true year-round residents.

For anadromous salmonids (salmon, trout, and char), whose life cycles occur in both salt and fresh waters, the ocean provides bountiful food necessary for rapid growth. Many spend 2 or more years feeding at sea (chinook, sockeye, chum, steelhead); others spend between 1 & 2 years at sea (pink and coho) or only a few weeks or months (Dolly Varden and cutthroat). In winter, most salmon, except some kings, leave our inside waters for food-rich areas in the Gulf of Alaska. Lakes and streams blocked to migrating fish usually contain resident Dolly Varden and sometimes cutthroat trout. Here their growth is quite slow. Resident fish in streams seldom grow longer than 7 inches and in lakes seldom longer than a foot. Slow growth of fish in freshwater lakes and streams is related to cold waters and nutrient-poor soils of surrounding coniferous forests.”

Although Bob is probably best known for Guide to the Birds of Alaska (6th ed, 2015), his career with ADF&G was as a fishery research supervisor. He’s also author of Alaska’s fish: A guide to selected species (1996). For an extensive list of fish resources, check out, under the tab for Links and resources. There, you can even download a free pdf of his little pocket guide. (And don’t stop with fishes: Bob’s Links & resources is a treasure trove of downloadable resources on all aspects of Southeast natural history.)

No one can deny the centrality of salmon to our nutritional, ecological and spiritual existence, here on the rainy coast.  However, I do feel compelled to comment on a popular campaign slogan—‘salmon in the trees‘—which has recently moved front-&-center into the effort to rein-in destructive developments in salmon watersheds throughout the Pacific Northwest.

By one interpretation, salmon-delivered nutrients to our streamside soils are thought to make trees grow bigger and faster. Consider, for a moment, how difficult it would be to design proper experimental controls to actually measure differences in salmon-fed versus salmon-starved trees. Or, to run those experiments long enough for meaningful comparison. Ironically, riparian spruces may turn out to be some of the only species whose productivity is relatively unaffected by decomposing fish. Some of the greatest stands documented by the Landmark Trees Project are upstream of salmon-barrier falls. Conversely, we’ve seen many mediocre streamside forests with bear-discarded spawners littering the understory.

In this section

Bishop & Pollard 1991 Big Boulder

King salmon spawning reaches on Yakwyaax̱ Methods suggested for enhancing chinook spawning and rearing habitats in the alluvial fan channel…

1991 | Bishop & Pollard | 35 pages

Bishop 1986 Juneau streams

Descriptions & recommendations for streams of Áak’w & T’aaḵú Aaní A marked-up draft of this report is all I can…

1986 | Dan Bishop | 37 pages

Bishop 1990 Haines Airport monitoring plan

Created ponds and wetlands Mitigation for impacts from Haines Airport reconstruction called for new fish rearing ponds and wetlands creation.…

1990 | Bishop, Bishop & Carstensen | 41 pages

Bishop 1989 Haines Airport phase-2

Return to the Nexus Between 1988 and 1989, Environaid made a total of 8 visits to Sawmill Wetland. Initial work…

1989 | Bishop, Bishop & Carstensen | 47 pages

Bishop 1981 Tsirku-Chilkat-Lake flooding

Trouble at the airstrip Where Chilkat Lake empties into Tsirku River, aggrading floodplains have created a delicately balanced flow regime…

1981 | Dan Bishop | 21 pages

Bishop 1981 Tsirku-Chilkat confluence

Hydrologic studies on a major salmon spawning habitat After a scoping visit for National Audubon, Dan’s next contract in Greater…

1981 | Dan Bishop | 30 pages

Bishop 1980 Chilkat streams

Chilkat valley streams: Late fall & winter salmon runs One of the first Environaid studies was commissioned by National Audubon…

1980 | Dan Bishop | 39 pages

Bishop 1985 North Douglas road extension

Twenty-seven crossings of Ḵaalahéenak’u North Douglas Highway’s irritating dead-end has always seemed an affront to public-spirited builders. According to Dan…

1985 | Dan Bishop | 34 pages

Bishop, Armstrong & Carstensen 1987 Juneau Airport

Environmental analysis of lower Jordan Creek From March through July, 1987, I assisted Dan Bishop and Bob Armstrong with an…

1987 | Bishop, Armstrong & Carstensen | 40 pages

Albatross retraced

If Harriman had been serious About 120 years ago the steamer Albatross conducted watershed surveys, interviews and salmon distribution studies…

2019; updated 2023 | Richard Carstensen | 60 pages

Fish Creek studies

Discovery-SAWC collaboration Beginning in early 2020, Discovery Southeast is assisting the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition with investigations at Fish Creek…

2020 | Richard Carstensen |

Kaxdigoowu Héen (Montana Creek): presentation for SEAL Trust

Slideshow in two parts Kaxdigoowu Héen, going back clearwater has been one of my favorite places since I first explored…

2019 | Richard Carstensen & John Hudson | slide show in 2 parts: 38 & 22 minutes

The streamwalker’s companion

This is an overview of streamwalking in Southeast Alaska intended for anyone who wants to put on a pair of…

2003 | Kathy Hocker|Terry Schwarz | 60 pages


Our laminated 4-fold guide to Streamwalking is the guide you’ll want in your pocket when you’re sleuthing the borders of…

2003 | Kathy Hocker & Richard Carstensen | 4-fold laminate