Merry holidays to all and thanks from the fish who by now have most of their eggs firmly buried within the substrate of our local streams once again continuing with their evolutionary journey through time.
Awesome is the only way to describe the returns of Wild Coho on all our streams this last month. Though a little late on some streams they were a little early on others. I do hope you got out to view these fish as they made there way up stream and if not you may still have a chance as the late runs come in. You do not have to look too hard to see them this year due to their abundance.
Bloods Creek Wild Coho were all the way above the highway but due to lower than usual flows were unable to make it all the way to Green Lake. Chum were seen within the lower reaches though once they get past the highway they have a hard time moving further into the system. The Wild Coho at one time moved all the way up into Copley Creek above Green Lake. Due to a dam placed on the stream back in the coal mining days stopped this upstream migration though the mining company did say they would build a fish ladder it never came to fruition and only when the dam was gone did fish move back upstream.
Knarston Creek had a good return moving all the way to the highway where a hung culvert behind the fire hall stops them, which is sad for the fish as at one time they went all the way up above the highway in to the foothills like Bloods Creek. [Bad planning by highways or bad advice when they redid the highway back in the day]
If you were into ocean beach fishing Knarston was the spot this year as it seemed that all the Coho in the bay were at the mouth of Knarston along the shore.
One report was out of 21 Coho caught only one was marked as a hatchery fish with the adipose removed. They stayed along the shore so long this year that upon returning into spawn they had turned black and red already instead of being silver bright in the stream.
Even Dublin Gulch at the Nanoose rest area had a small showing of Wild Coho pushing up from the beach, though only a small number return and have limited spawning opportunities before coming to the barrier falls. Well worth the short walk back up the stream to see the falls especially when the falls are frozen.
Bonnel Creek was awesome with an early showing of small what I would think were female Chum due to there small size followed by a really good run of Wild Coho, which also brought in another flush of Chum this time larger and more abundant. Walking the entire length of available spawning habitat we were surprised at the amount of both the Coho and Chum throughout the whole system, which bodes well for the future.
Recently a document came into my possession, which showed data from the early 70’s when Bonnel had counts of thousands of Chum. Also in the data was a prescription for removal of Beaver dams and logs jams along with gravel removal, which went ahead with DFO approval. From that year on the runs began to decline until the returning numbers went down in to the low hundreds and even lower in some years. This was a case of putting the cart before the horse so to speak, remove the habitat and the spawning gravel and then the stream flows unhindered to the Salish Sea just like building a big ditch. What was not considered was that entire habitat was contributing to those large returns of Chum and Coho.
In the case this year on Nanoose Creek I had to keep some volunteers from wanting to pull the Beaver dams as they thought they were a impediment to the Chum from moving further upstream. Upon further walks upstream Chum were found way above the highway showing how they could transit those dams and any other log debris jams they encountered. The Wild Coho on Nanoose were observed as far up as Matthew Crossing and beyond with another spectacular run after all these years of slow returns. Again a good example of just leaving the habitat alone and it will take care of itself.
Craig Creek had a good return also of Chum and Coho. The Coho can go as far as the logging camp when flows allow which on most years is as late as Xmas with the chum being restricted to the lower reaches. In the days past a small Chum hatchery was placed on the lower Craig to try to increase the numbers but as usual failed and the only achievement was the further depletion of the wild stocks. When you have kilometres of habitat for the Salmon to spawn unhindered you have to allow nature to take its course even though man thinks he knows what is best for nature it does not always work that way. [Ego]
As we know all Salmon and Trout’s have adapted over the millennia to be able spawn and rear in each stream building immunities and adapting to all the conditions specific to that stream even down to the individual tributary. A Salmon is a Salmon I hear after all their brains are no where as big as ours in fact they are about the size of a pea. Pea brained they maybe but in size only and the more I find out about past practices on our local streams I think it is the humans that made those detrimental decisions that have the pea brain. Ever try to catch a fish? Sure you can but many times you will be outwitted by that fish with only a brain the size of a pea. Go figure. It was also good to see Black’y or one of his offspring back down in the estuary at the head of the bay taking his fill of Chum, which is the easiest for the bear to catch. All he has to do is sit in an advantages spot along the banks or on a log and take his pick. Watching a bear fish is wild to say the least, they tend to look uninterested then suddenly down plunges his paw and bam there is a fish hang off his claws then up on the bank or log if enough room and chomp goes a big chunk from the back of the head then tossed into the pile. When they have time it is amazing to see peel off the skin better than I can do with my filleting knife as they devour the rest leaving the scraps for rocky Racoon, Mink, Otter and even the birds all taking there share, even the flora gets a good hit of nutrients via the excrement deposited throughout the forest.
Happy New Year to all and we all look forward to the coming emergence from the gravel next spring of yet another start of the incredible journey the Salmon undertake to complete their life cycle once again.