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Healthy herring spawn draws wildlife, fishers

Paradise Beach Park pier is crowded Jan. 19 with herring fishers positioned along the walkway close to shore, where the herring tend to spawn. (Elliot Karlan photo / For The Ark)

The Pacific herring season took off with a bang last week with a huge spawn stretching around the Tiburon Peninsula and into Richardson Bay.

Masses of the silvery 6-inch fish moved in to spawn on Jan. 15. By Jan. 18 the shores of the peninsula were covered with herring eggs, sending herring hunters both animal and human into a frenzy.

“It was a humongous spawn,” said Tom Greiner, an environmental scientist and researcher with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who samples yearly herring spawns. “It went from Paradise to Keil Cove all the way to Richardson Bay. Pretty much everywhere we sampled we got spawn, and it was really heavy. We could barely lift it.”

In Belvedere Cove, sea lions, pelicans and cormorants feasted on the fish themselves while gulls descended in droves, squawking and fighting for herring roe along the shore before retreating to rest atop CVS/pharmacy downtown. The quiet waters of Richardson Bay were thick with coots and migrating sea ducks feeding on roe attached to the bay’s eelgrass.

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