December came in with our second cold spell; though not too cold it did make for some brisk walks along our streams to observe the last of the Chum and Coho returning to spawn. Do not go over your boots is the mantra when out in this weather but as usual there is always someone who will cross where others have not and get wet feet making for a cold morning if they do it first thing. Temptation to walk on the frozen pond in the estuary brings out the kid in us all though so far no one has been silly enough to try. Having said that last year we had a great time wandering about on frozen Swan lake, which had ice around a foot thick or even thicker. That was in January last year when we had a real cold spell so we still have a good month to go before we can sate our desire to walk on the ice. This year was not the best returns for Chum on all streams monitored with the wild Coho doing a little better with higher numbers returning. Due to the heavy rains the last two months we were unable to see too much due to cloudy water laden with sediment run off from the upper watersheds. This was good for the Coho as they had lots of water to make the run all the way to the upper reaches without having to wait for the rain as in past years when we experienced low rainfall until the end of October. The counts of returning adults were low as a result, which is not to say that sufficient fish returned to continue the survival of these highly endangered Salmon. The Chum in particular is always fluxing between low and very low returns due to many factors beyond our control. For many years now the commercial fleet has been targeting what DFO call a mixed fishery in Johnson Strait targeting the returning Chum. This may sound like a long way away to effect our streams that flow into Nanoose bay and along the foreshore of Lantzville, due to the fishery being conducted by gill net and seine one good set for a gill netter can wipe out or severely reduce the number of fish that are heading for Nanoose if they happen to have there nets just where our fish are at that time. The same for the seine boats who can catch many more fish and thusly pose a greater hazard to the survival of these fish. This winter sees the continued fishery on the Herring within the Salish Sea though DFO says there are lots of Herring in the ocean the numbers do not add up when you consider that only a few decades ago we saw more Herring spawning than you could imagine and then still that was well below historical levels. A couple of years ago a paper was published on how all stats for Herring bio mass was based on estimates long after the Herring stocks had collapsed from there historical levels when they flooded the coast. The result is that we are targeting an ever-decreasing number of fish. Why you may ask does not DFO close the fishery all together for at least 10 years to allow stocks to rebuild, well as I do not know what drives these decisions other than what I can speculate as being market driven and as we all know when any so called resource becomes seen as merely commodities you can be assured it will be exploited to the maximum all in the name of profit, so much for bio diversity.
Bonnel Creek Chum, around 60 dead, 20 live.
Coho 50 live.
Nanoose Creek Chum around 50 dead, 30 live.
Coho possibly around 100 live.
Craig Creek chum around 15 dead.
Coho around 10 though later runs do return around Xmas time.
Knarston Creek Coho 6 live no Chum observed. As with Craig later Coho show up around Xmas.
Bloods Creek 4 Chum possibly around 10 Coho. [Anecdotal from local resident]
Along the foreshore this week a big spawn of Needle fish was observed between Sebastion and Harper Road with resultant flock of Mergansers feeding on any adults still around swimming in the shallows. It takes around 10 days for these fish to emerge from eggs deposited and fertilized along the foreshore.
From the all fish and animals of the forest to you may you all have a jolly time this holiday season.
Polar Bear swim soon for those hardy souls who dare to venture into the Salish Sea to welcome the New Year.