Forage Fish Surveys

Forage Fish Spawning Surveys

Forage fish (small fish eaten by larger animals) are a crucial link in the marine food web, feeding salmon, seabirds and a variety of marine mammals from seals to orcas. In Puget Sound, herring, surf smelt and sand lance are the three most important forage fish species. The MRC helps collect information about the latter two species, which lay their eggs on sandy or gravely beaches. You can learn more about forage fish here.

Knowing where, when and how often this spawning occurs is critical for protecting these species and their spawning habitat, which in turn supports a resilient marine food web.

Where does MRC monitor?

Jefferson MRC volunteers monitor two sites for forage fish spawning activity:

  • a shoreline restoration site at Fort Townsend State Park, in partnership with Point No Point Treaty Council biologists
  • an index site in Discovery Bay near Adelma Beach, to provide long-term data for WDFW's database.

Sediment samples are collected monthly, processed and analyzed. Both sand lance and surf smelt eggs have been found at these two sites during the winter. 

This long-term effort helps fill data gaps about population dynamics and response to restoration efforts. 

WDFW forage fish spawning map

Do Forage Fish Spawn on My Beach?

WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife has extensive information about forage fish, including basic info, long-term studies, and a mapping link you can use to see which species of forage fish might be spawning near your beach. 

Forage Fish Surveys