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Duwamish Steelhead Smolts To Try And ‘Survive The SoundR …

Survive the Sound, the fun, free online game that tracks virtual equivalents of real winter steelhead smolts as they try to migrate out of the inland sea, is back and new this spring features fish from a third river.

“This year, we are adding the Duwamish River, a stream with many unique challenges brought on by urban development,” organizers at Long Live The Kings stated in an email over the weekend.

“HOT SHOT,” “SCIFI” AND “SEA SLOUGH” WILL TRY TO MAKE IT FROM THE DUWAMISH TO THE OCEAN IN THIS YEAR’S VERSION OF SURVIVE THE SOUND. THE CHARACTERS REPRESENT ACTUAL SMOLTS THAT HAVE BEEN ACOUSTICALLY TAGGED FOR TRACKING. (LLTK)

A far cry from the natural setting of the other two, the Duwamish has virtually no estuary, part of its highly industrialized lower end is a Superfund site, and further upstream, where it is known as the Green, it is tightly jacketed by levees to protect what is considered to be one of the largest warehouse and shipping districts in the country from flooding.

My office is along its banks and I’ve come to appreciate the system as more than the runoff channel it’s become, as well as worry with a biologist last April after spotting a sea lion swimming in it around the time smolts were released.

BEHIND A SCREEN OF INVASIVE BLACKBERRIES, THE DUWAMISH-GREEN RIVER COURSES OVER RARE ROCKS IN ITS LOWER END. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Survive the Sound’s five-day early May interactive challenge with 48 sillily named fish is based on actual smolts that are acoustically tagged and tracked and is meant to highlight the plight of outmigrating smolts as they face pollution, predators and other perils along their passage to the ocean.

For the first three seasons it focused on those finning their way from the Nisqually, in Deep South Sound, and Skokomish, in Hood Canal, to the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“Most of them died around the bridges,” notes my son River about the notorious Hood Canal span which, according to LLTK, 50 percent of young fish from further south in the hooked fjord don’t ever make it past.

WHILE BOTH ENDS OF THE HOOD CANAL BRIDGE ARE RAISED, RESEARCHERS SAY THAT IT COVERS 95 PERCENT OF THE WIDTH OF THE FJORD AT LOW TIDE. (WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY)

River has participated through his schools, and boasts that his fish, Sgt. Snackbar, placed second one year.

“Some of them died in the estuary,” he adds.

While the governor has yet to sign the budget, coming out of this latest session of the Washington legislature, there is some good news on the bridge front. LLTK tweeted that the state budget included “funding to advance solutions to mitigate steelhead mortality at the Hood Canal Bridge.”

With the great smolt race set to begin May 4, the time is now to sign up and pick fish and teams. Given the location of my work and having snuck out to fish the Duwamish-Green River more than a few times, I’ve got my eyes on either SciFi, Hot Shot or Lunch Box as my smolt in this year’s running.

According to WDFW data, the DGR’s wild adult steelhead returns in recent years have been around 1,000 fish, up from 304 in 2009 but also well below high marks of 2,145 in 2016 and 2,359 in 2004.

THE MOUTH OF THE DUWAMISH ON ELLIOTT BAY IS AN INTERNATIONAL SEAPORT LORDED OVER BY CONTAINER CRANES STATIONED ON HARBOR ISLAND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)