April is upon us, cherry and plums trees flowering everywhere you look, buds on the trees and fish emerging from the substrate. Soon all the Wild Chum fry will be gone from the streams and the young wild Coho will be occupying the pools. Chums become free swimmers very quick and once this takes place off they go to sea going on their great trek around the north Pacific having the largest range of all the Salmon species. According to records the largest Chum caught was in Edie Pass BC weighing in at 42 pounds and 44 inches long, now that is one big Chum. I have caught many in the 10 to 20 pound range and believe me when you get a Chum on a light rod and reel you have a good fight on to land the fish. If in the river you have no chance if they decide to head down stream at a alarming rate of speed peeling off your line until it breaks or if strong enough line the fish becomes exhausted and then you can muscle them to shore so I can only imagine hooking into a 42 pounder. One of the longest migrations back to the spawning grounds takes place on the Yukon River, Mackenzie River and on the Amur River in Asia a true marathon swimmer by any standard. Last week we placed our smolts’ counting fence and box at Swan Lake to catch any early outgoing Coho. With the box in place we will visit it twice a week until the main out migration begins in earnest then every day to count and empty the box.
This last week we have had some torrential downpours that have brought high levels of flow to all our streams and being a warm rain it seems to be melting any snow still laying in the upper watersheds contributing to flows.
From February to May is the spawning time for Sea Run Cutthroat Trout often the unseen visitor to our streams. Wandering into and out of the streams all year and sometimes to over winter within the stream. The young can spend up to 3 years in the stream before heading out to sea living for about 10 years if they can survive being over fished and habitat loss due to urban planning placing many of their traditional small streams within storm drains.
Lantzville had a very productive Cutthroat trout stream, Slogar Brook flowing from Negrins farm down through the Kennel property over Leyland Rd and Peterson, Sebastion roads finally flowing down the beach into the Salish Sea. I doubt if many even spawn there any more, though ever the optimist I expect there are some sneak in and spawn. There are some resident trout and hopefully some will return to the sea as sea run. One local who lives at the creek told of his son catching them on a regular basis and a long time resident who used to live on the creek tells of listening to them at night making there way upstream splashing along from pool to pool. Bloods Creek has a good run and so does Knarston sometimes they can be confused with a late run of Coho but chances are they are Cutthroat often seen in February heading up to spawn.
This is a important time to be aware of what you allow to enter the watershed via your septic tank, roadside ditch and now the sewer which you may get the false sense of “Oh it’s okay we now have a sewer so I can dump anything down the drain or toilet but, and this is a big but, you must remember that all sewers lead to the Ocean. We still have this idea that dumping sewage into the sea is out of sight out of mind. Our sewer system flows to Hammond Bay Road pumping station and treatment facility where it receives minimal treatment [chlorine injection and sedimentation] before being pumped out to sea. If it was just human waste the ocean can easily break that down but with modern living we tend to use all kinds of chemicals usually not even knowing what they are hidden behind that appealing label or slick TV ad. Even medical waste from medication [birth control pills] has been attributed to gender bending among resident river fish where sewer is dumped into rivers. Live smart and think about the bigger picture because we are the only animals on the planet who have the arrogance and ability to effect often to their detriment all other life as we know it on this planet we call Earth as it takes its ever spinning journey through the universe.