Steelhead, Diving Water at the Mouth and a Walk on Poison Oak Alley Trail

Thursday January 22, 2015 Jenner CA.

Ray’s truck was in the parking lot at Jenner this morning when I pulled in today. I could see him in his boat across the river near Penny Island as I was putting my boat in the water.

Ray is excited about some seals splashing

I put my boat in the water and met him about half way across. He was excited as he had just seen some harbor seals doing a lot of splashing in the shallows, just where he was by the island. He wanted to go investigate where he’d seen all the action so we paddled down a little ways where he saw the action and we didn’t see anything except some muddy water that the seals had stirred up.

Steelhead sometimes lay along the bank in the shallow water to rest or to get their bearings or maybe just to avoid getting caught by the seals and sea lions. The seals and sea lions know this and hunt for them in these spots and sometimes drive the big fish up onto the shore. That’s what likely happened, but since we didn’t see the seals feeding, the fish must have gotten away.

Just past that spot, we pulled into a little inlet to take a break before crossing the open water to the river’s mouth where we were headed.

John Shows up

As we were sitting there, John, Ray’s brother pulls in, in his kayak and we proceed to shoot the bull. The inlet barely holds three kayaks, so we are sitting in our boats face to face with only a few feet of water between us.

Big Fish

John all of a sudden says there’s a big fish right in front of us, right in front of me. I look and see nothing, not even a wake and the water is only about a foot deep and shallower than that in some places as I looked. I was thinking John was full of it, but I know better as John fishes on this river more than most and is a local that knows his stuff, so I was pretty sure he saw one, but now it wasn’t to be seen.

We continue to shoot the bull when all of a sudden I spot the big steelhead right under my left elbow. It’s so close, I have a hard time getting my camera on it and pushing the take a picture button. I’m having a hard time getting a picture and thinking the fish will bolt any second.

Steelhead

This was what I saw as I looked down and somehow got a picture of this fish. That’s my paddle in the upper right corner. It has the little fin still on it that says it’s a native fish, not a hatchery fish.steelhead2

 

The fish was listing to the right a little and looking closer, it had some big scratch marks by the big fin on top and down it’s right hind part. Maybe this fish just escaped the seals Ray had seen? Maybe it was already wounded from coming through the seals and sea lions at the mouth and the seals discovered it resting by the shoreline? If so, it escaped and was trying to recovery before continuing on it’s journey to spawn on up the river.

Here’s another shot of the steelhead fish. You can see some of the scratch marks by the big fin on top. The green thing is the side of my boat.steelhead5

 

During this time, John gets out of his boat and gets up on the shore to have a closer look as I was between him and the fish and being a fishermen, he was real curious. The fish was wounded, but not down yet. It went into this little channel and was between John and my boat.john

 

Here’s the big guy in the little channel. John says about twelve pounds and a native, but couldn’t see it’s mouth to make it’s sex.steelhead4

 

As the water receded, it splashed to get back into some more water as we watched. The water receded because the ocean waves coming into the mouth were causing the river to surge up and down a bit.steelhead3

 

We watched the fish for five minutes or so when it disappeared and hopefully continued on up the river to spawn. Having been attacked, it is weaker so it will be harder for it to avoid more danger while going up the river to spawn. I hope it makes it, but nature isn’t very kind.

We headed out from that spot and headed on down to the river’s mouth where the ocean was at high tide about the time we got there.

We passed a bunch of harbor seals resting on the sand. Here’s a few of them. There were also others in the water along with some sea lions hunting back and forth in front of as.seals

 

Open river’s mouth

We sat here and watched for a good while. Ray and John are kicked back. The river’s mouth is open and there is this foam with all the wood floating around in it, looking down the mouth into the ocean.rivermouth

 

The foam is not what it appears to be

Now most people just think this foam is a bunch of pollution, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

With the river’s mouth open, but full of sand which makes it shallow and  slows the incoming ocean water down from coming into the river too fast. Too fast causes the ocean water to mix with the river water and the ocean water doesn’t sink. Because of this slower water action, the ocean water comes in slow and dives under the warmer fresh river water causing a salt water layer to form under the fresh river water. This layer can go clear up to  Markham hole, a few miles up the river, carrying ocean nutrients all the way up there in the salt water, under the fresh river water.

The foam comes off the ocean and comes in with the waves. But since the foam can’t sink with the colder denser ocean water it floats right where the ocean water goes down and under the river water. The foam and the wood mark the spot that this happens. Out in front of the foam is the ocean water which is salty and right in back of the foam is fresh river water. This can be checked with my supper duper salt tester. Put a finger in the water and taste it. Salt on one side and fresh on the other. No expensive equipment needed. I’ve witnessed this diving action with the foam from the mouth up to about where the boat ramp is at the visitor center at different times.

This is the spot that the ocean water sinks below the river water. It’s also a good spot to park and sit as there isn’t any current where the foam is, so it’s easy to stay in one spot.mouth

 

Hard life

I watched this seagull come in and land on this rock. It has a broken leg, which is likely a bit better than a broken wing. Seagulls have a rough life. I’ve seen broken wings and broken legs lately.seagull

 

After a good while of sitting around and shooting the bull and just enjoying the river we started back up the river passing this loon fishing.loon

 

Walk on the poison oak alley trail

We went up the back channel of Penny Island. The guys wanted to go for a little walk, so we looked for a spot to get out that wasn’t too muddy. We thought the swamp rock trail might be ok so we paddled up to it and pulled in here at this spot.swamprock

 

We first went over to see if we could get to swamp rock, but there was water in the swamp so we couldn’t get to the rock without getting wet, so we turned onto the poison oak alley trail which heads up the side of the river.

There were quite a few robins in the bushes as we walked along the trail.robins

 

Here, I’m looking back and waiting for these guys to catch up with me so they don’t get lost as the trail is a mish-mash of short animal trails with lots of poison oak mixed in which is now dormant, which makes it hard to see, so as avoiding it, is difficult.trail

 

We walked along and eventually made it up to the eagle’s landing area here.trail2

 

At that point we rested for a bit shooting more bull, then turned around and headed on back.

We got back into our boats here, which you can barely see by the water, although as I remember, Ray almost fell in the water when he was getting out of  his boat. This is looking down towards the town of Jenner. It was a good spot, mostly gravel with little mud.jenner

We headed back to Jenner for the day and took our boats out. Went on home and had  another real nice day kayaking Jenner.

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