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Scientists closely watching endangered fish runs after deadly landslide, see signs of hope

  • Mudslide Fabled Fish.JPEG

    In this photo taken Tuesday, April 15, 2014, fisheries biologist Pete Verhey tags an overhanging branch after finding a salmon spawning nest in Squire Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, near Darrington, Wash. Finding the nest, called a redd, is an encouraging sign that steelhead trout may be making their way upstream from Oso., Wash., above where a massive landslide decimated a riverside neighborhood a month ago and pushed several football fields worth of sediment down the hillside and across the river. As search crews continue to look for people missing in the slide, scientists also are closely monitoring how the slide is affecting federally endangered fish runs, including Chinook salmon and steelhead. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (The Associated Press)

  • 8308218c0e913c10520f6a706700032d.jpg

    In this photo taken Tuesday, April 15, 2014, fisheries biologist Pete Verhey clambers over a log while searching for evidence of fish eggs in Squire Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, near Darrington, Wash. Finding a spawning nest, called a redd, is an encouraging sign that steelhead trout may be making their way upstream from Oso., Wash., above where a massive landslide decimated a riverside neighborhood a month ago and pushed several football fields worth of sediment down the hillside and across the river. As search crews continue to look for people missing in the slide, scientists also are closely monitoring how the slide is affecting federally endangered fish runs, including Chinook salmon and steelhead. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (The Associated Press)

  • ae164fa90e903c10520f6a706700581c.jpg

    In this photo taken Tuesday, April 15, 2014, fisheries biologists Jenni Whitney, left, and Pete Verhey take a brief break after wading through Squire Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, while searching for salmon spawning nests near Darrington, Wash. Finding the nest, called a redd, is an encouraging sign that steelhead trout may be making their way upstream from Oso., Wash., above where a massive landslide decimated a riverside neighborhood a month ago and pushed several football fields worth of sediment down the hillside and across the river. As search crews continue to look for people missing in the slide, scientists also are closely monitoring how the slide is affecting federally endangered fish runs, including Chinook salmon and steelhead. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (The Associated Press)

  • 9959c18e0e8f3c10520f6a7067004dae.jpg

    In this photo taken Tuesday, April 15, 2014, fisheries biologists Jenni Whitney, left, and Pete Verhey wade into Squire Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, as they search for salmon spawning nests near Darrington, Wash. Finding the nest, called a redd, is an encouraging sign that steelhead trout may be making their way upstream from Oso., Wash., above where a massive landslide decimated a riverside neighborhood a month ago and pushed several football fields worth of sediment down the hillside and across the river. As search crews continue to look for people missing in the slide, scientists also are closely monitoring how the slide is affecting federally endangered fish runs, including Chinook salmon and steelhead. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (The Associated Press)

As search crews continue to look for two missing people following the devastating mudslide in Washington state, scientists are closely monitoring how the avalanche is affecting federally endangered fish runs.

It's too early to know the slide's long-term effects, but so far scientists are hopeful about the immediate prospects: adult steelhead are spawning in clear waters above the slide area, and typical numbers of baby fish are migrating downstream to the marine waters.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife's Jenni Whitney says the mudslide is foremost a human tragedy. But they're doing fish monitoring work because people will eventually want to know.

The Stillaguamish River once had legendary runs of wild steelhead. Novelist Zane Grey fished its creeks nearly a century ago and described one as the most beautiful trout water he'd seen.

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