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Female Chinook # 9748

For nearly 20 years I have slipped below the liquid line in the icy melt waters of the Lostine River, capturing portraits and documenting the diversity of life that flows within her banks. The white and slightly worn area on the tail identifies this fish as a female Chinook, actively engaged in excavating a redd (nest), in the cobble of the river in preparation for spawning.  Other secondary sex characteristics also distinguish her as female, such as the shape of her head and taper of the maxillary. For more about this photo check out he long description.

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For nearly 20 years I have slipped below the liquid line in the icy melt waters of the Lostine River, capturing portraits and documenting the diversity of life that flows within her banks. The white and slightly worn area on the tail identifies this fish as a female Chinook, actively engaged in excavating a redd (nest), in the cobble of the river in preparation for spawning.  Other secondary sex characteristics also distinguish her as female, such as the shape of her head and taper of the maxillary.

Photographing spawning Chinook is difficult; the ideal areas to spawn are at the top or tail end of a riffle.  Typically this is fairly shallow water, 6 – 10 inches deep; insuring that eggs will receive continues flow and oxygenation, with little silt accumulation, both key to successful reproduction. My goal always is to maintain a respectful distance and minimize disturbance.   Often the housing of my camera is resting in 8 - 10 inches of water and I have pretzeled myself into position so I can observe and wait.

Spawning Chinook, males and females, are territorial once they have begun the process of excavating a redd to deposit their eggs. Keeping my movements to a minimum often brings the reward of being considered by my subjects as “background noise and low threat”.  It is not unusual for large and small fish, including spawning adults to queue up next to me or slightly down stream of my prone position. They use the pooling eddy’s formed by my prone position to rest and hold.

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Female Chinook # 9748

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