The Steep Creek fish cam is back on line. The U.S. Forest Service has reactivated the underwater view on the active salmon stream near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.
Fisheries biologist Pete Schneider said the webcam is the latest incarnation of a project started years ago by Eagle Scout Matt Statsny. An early versionof the fish cam included a basic camera hooked up to monitors at the pavilion and Visitor Center. It evolved to streaming imagery over the internet from a temperamental Forest Service server.
“We were actually paying a hosting company,” Schneider said. “We would upload the image, the video to them and they would host it. That way, the computer in the back closet up in the Visitor Center didn’t crash with all people viewing it.”
Schneider said Forest Service officials in Washington D.C. later suggested that a dedicated YouTube channel would be more accessible and provide more exposure.
The analog camera is set in twelve inches of water aimed toward a pool where sockeye salmon may rest and congregate. Schneider said the sockeye salmon recently seen on camera have actually descended downstream.
“The sockeye are just coming in right now,” Schneider said. “Right before the jökulhlaup (Mendenhall Glacier outburst starting July 9th), we had a whole bunch of fish come in. But then when it all flooded with the jökulhlaup, they headed back downstream. They’re still downstream.”
An avian or mammal or two might also come into view.
Every once in a while, the bears will reach into the pool and pull out a fish that’s just about dead,” Schneider said. “They don’t do that until they start getting kind of hungry, but that’s always fun. You’ll see an occasional duck or merganser paddle by. Beavers will go by. River otter. Coho fry will come hang out by the camera.
The Forest Service said 27,000 people tuned in to the Steep Creek feed last year and collectively watched 10,314 hours of video.
Schneider said the camera project recently won a Forest Service ‘Rise to the Future’ award which recognizes work in fisheries and watershed enhancement.
(Pete Schneider was interviewed on Tuesday’s A Juneau Afternoon program hosted by Ken Fix and produced by Jeff Brown)