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Sockeye salmon use a variety of habitats for spawning as long as they’re available to them. The Bristol Bay watershed is one of few places left where sockeye salmon have their choice of pristine spawning grounds; from beaches, creeks and spring-fed ponds like this one, this diverse array of habitats contributes greatly to their resilience and success.
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A female sockeye salmon keeping things tidy in her redd. She and millions of other sockeye salmon got their spawn on in Bristol Bay, producing another generation of nutrient driving fish supporting so much in this region; from commercial and recreational fisheries to subsistence communities and entire ecosystems.
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 I couldn’t believe what I was seeing through my camera monitor when I caught these sockeye salmon forming a beautiful heart shaped school. This pond where sockeye spawn may have several of these “pods” consisting of a couple dozen to over a hundred salmon. These pods seem to form when the pond is fully saturated with redds and spawning fish and it’s thought that these sockeye salmon form these tight schools in spawning ponds right over locations where springs feed into the system. Here the water temperature would be constant and cool, and oxygen content at its highest.
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It’s always amazing to watch salmon battle their way to their spawning grounds. Here their determination was put on display as they launched themselves over this beaver dam.

Jason Ching is a research scientist for the Alaska Salmon Program through the University of Washington. You can reach Jason at @jasonching or on his website  www.JasonSChing.com