Peamouth minnows (Mylocheilus caurinus) are a species of freshwater ray-finned fish from the family Cyprinidae—the carps and minnows—found in Western North America. The name minnow is a bit misleading. Most of us think of small minnow about 1-1/2 inches long. But the peamouth average a foot!
While salmon don’t start spawning (laying eggs) until mid-summer, Peamouth minnows prefer the warmer water and lower stream levels of local creeks and rivers in the spring. If you time it right, you can see spawning Peamouth one or more times from late April through June.
When Peamouth are spawning, Kelsey Creek is plastered with gazillions of sticky little eggs that take only a week to hatch. After they have spawned, Peamouth head back to Lake Washington. Their average life span is eight years.
However, the Peamouth spawning period is quite short, from 12-48 hours. If you want to see this spectacle, you have to be there at the right time. Read more below to find out how to watch Peamouth at Bellevue’s Kelsey Creek.
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When and where to see the Peamouth minnow spawn
The best spots to watch the peamouth are by Kelsey Creek, under the Wilburton Trestle, and at the Mercer Slough Fish Ladder. Be sure to watch quietly at these sites. In addition to the peamouth, you may see other wildlife looking for dinner, including blue heron, wood ducks, river otters, and bald eagles.
Peamouth are typically observed one to four times from late April through June–but they are only around for 12-48 hours, so if you want to see them you have to be there at the right time.
Watch Kelsey Creek wildlife online
Can’t make the trek to Kelsey Creek? Then watch for wildlife on the Kelsey Creek Camera (see video link below). You might see blue heron, crows, ducks, and other local birds, and maybe a deer, raccoon, beaver. In season, if you are really lucky, you might spot a salmon or blue heron dining on a peamouth minnow! You might also see people on the viewing platforms at the upstream end of the view, or scientists doing research in the area.
In the YouTube video below, you can view the live camera at Kelsey Creek maintained by the City of Bellevue: Kelsey Creek Camera | City of Bellevue (bellevuewa.gov)
Where to see spawning salmon
As we mentioned above, salmon spawn later in the year—summer through fall. There are many, many creeks and rivers to see spawning salmon, plus the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks (especially good if you have tiny tots in tow). We’ve got all the details about where and when in our article about Salmon spawning season in Western Washington.
Upcoming salmon-related events on our calendar
This list includes salmon spawning viewing periods as well as other salmon related events such as festivals featuring salmon, salmon bakes, museum exhibits, and other events.
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