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Archive for October, 2012

Collecting Eggs and Milt

Published on Monday, October 29th, 2012

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be part of a rather fun, or dirty, project on the Alouette River. Students from BCIT were learning the process of collecting chum salmon eggs and milt for the Seymour Salmon Hatchery, and I was invited to document it.

As mentioned in an earlier article, 2012’s Fraser River chum salmon run has been better than average so far. 3 to 3.5 million fish are estimated to make their way into the system by the end of the year. Just the Alouette River alone can see up to 250,000 spawning fish returning. I was blown away by the amount of fish that have reached the counting fence at the hatchery.

Each year, Seymour Salmon Hatchery collects eggs and milt from the Alouette River to boost Seymour River’s chum salmon stock. The run has been poor for many usual reasons, including the existing dam, urbanization and poaching. By transplanting more fish, the hope is to rebuild this run to possibly what it once was.

Here are some photographs. Stay tuned for the video feature!

Big School of Spawning Chum Salmon

Collecting Chum Salmon Broods

Dead Chum Salmon

Return of Salmon at Kanaka Creek

Published on Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This past weekend, we decided to put our fishing rods down and attended a very worthy local event in Maple Ridge. On Sunday, at Kanaka Creek, volunteers from Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society (K.E.E.P.S.) displayed salmon that are currently returning to this system at the fish counting fence.

K.E.E.P.S. volunteer Ross Davies showcasing a spawned out chum salmon

K.E.E.P.S. volunteer Ross Davies showcasing a chum salmon

Kanaka Creek is a small river system. Unlike larger systems such as the Chilliwack River, it only sees the return of several hundreds to thousands of salmon each year. Meanders through a rapidly developing part of Metro Vancouver, it faces many challenges, including pollution, river discharge fluctuation and poaching. Collectively, these challenges can impact the fragile salmon population if actions are not taken.

K.E.E.P.S. volunteer Ross Davies showcasing a chum salmon

K.E.E.P.S. is an active stewardship group that ensures the survival of this stream and its inhabitants. By ongoing work at the Bell-Irving Hatchery, habitat enhancement, river patrol and various outreach programs, it has been responsible for the return of these fish each year.

Chum salmon eggs

While we were at the event, visitors also received an extra treat when a black bear decided to make a surprising appearance. I managed to capture the last portion of its visit on video.

Opening Success in the Tidal Fraser River

Published on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

In the past decade or so, the opening of Tidal Fraser River’s coho salmon fishery has almost always been during the Thanksgiving Weekend. I have always made an effort to put in some time during the opening weekend because something exciting always seems to happen. It is an unpredictable fishery, because you never know what you will catch. It is also a very social fishery, the same friends always return to the same spot. Not only do we get to fish, it is also the only time of the year when we get to catch up. I could not fish on opening day, so I was eager to get back at it on Sunday.

The tide was very good. The peak was around Noon, with a gradual outgoing afterward. Not only we had the opportunities to intercept fish following the incoming tide, the gradual outgoing can actually be just as productive at times. I arrived at 10:30am and had planned to put in a few hours of spinning with my new Shimano Clarus/Sustain outfit. Rated 8 to 12lb test, it is a bit heavier than what I would preferred but I was quite happy with how sensitive the tip is. The Sustain 2500 is spooled with 8lb test Maxima Ultragreen, which has always been my go-to line for pink and coho salmon in the Tidal Fraser River.

I decided to leave my cured roe back home, to avoid the mess and concentrate on spincasting for once. Many years ago, I used to have very successful outings by only casting and retrieving lures. In the last few years, I have strayed to trying out bottom fishing with roe as well as casting lures. Both techniques are very enjoyable, but it is never good when you start switching between techniques throughout an outing.

I only managed a few casts with the 1/8oz spinner before a couple of friends passed by on their bikes so we ended up chatting for a good 15 minutes. Once they left, I proceeded to work the spinner while chatting with Nina on the phone. Suddenly, the blade stopped turning and it felt like as if I was dragging it on the bottom. I lifted the rod slightly and felt some solid kicks. “Fish on! I gotta go, bye!”, I said on the phone. At first the light weight suggested that it was a bull trout, but it was in fact coming toward me fast. I picked up the slack line and it immediately bolted to one side where other anglers’ lines were. This was no bull trout, it was clearly a large coho salmon. I could not do anything except holding on and letting the smooth drag working this hot fish. Once it finished the 100ft dash, it came straight back at me again so I was back to reeling madly to tighten the line. The fish surfaced in front of us after a few minutes. One nearby angler was kind enough to have the net ready for me. I carefully guided it into the net and the first coho salmon from the Tidal Fraser River was landed, after only doing a dozen casts!

A Beautiful Tidal Fraser River Coho Salmon

It was a hatchery marked coho salmon, which was really surprising. For some reason, the likelihood of catching a hatchery marked fish is pretty small in the lower portion of the Fraser River. The last time I was able to capture one, was in 2004. Since then, there have been many large wild fish caught, so no fish have been in the cooler for awhile. It was also incredibly chrome. This is one good thing about fishing in the Tidal Fraser River, the salmon you catch will always be in this state because they are always fresh arrivers from the ocean. I dispatched the fish and Gunther, who just arrived, took the photograph for me. For some reason, I always connect with a coho whenever he arrives, just like two years ago. This buck was approximately 10lb, perhaps bigger. I have never been concerned about weight, all I know is this was now my largest of the season.

Once the fish was cleaned and packed in the cooler, it was back to fishing again. I could feel a few light taps but failed to connect with them. An hour later, I brought in a couple of small bull trout, which explained why the taps were so light. Eventually, I was quite bored with the little spinner so a 3/8oz spoon was tied on. A few more light taps came and went just after Noon. Finally, the line did something strange as if the spoon was being pushed up. This was followed by another solid hit. It was definitely not another bull trout. I set the hook and more solid kicks could be felt. Another coho, similar to the first one in size, swam toward me immediately. The line was kept tight, it did one giant leap before taking a couple more runs. I brought it close to shore where the net was waiting. Just when I thought the second fish was in the bag, the hook popped out, sending the lure flying into the air. Disappointed I was not, because two solid hook-ups in three hours were more than what most anglers could ask for. I was quite lucky today. Satisfied with the result, I packed up at 2:00pm to save the better fishing for another day.

After a rather awesome first outing on Sunday, I decided to return for more with Nina yesterday. We started at 11:00am, to catch the last portion of the incoming tide and had planned to leave at 3:00pm. The entire incoming tide was very uneventful, unlike yesterday. Beside a couple of coho jacks that we saw hooked and released, we did not any luck at all. That’s the name of the game when it comes to fishing in the tidal portion of the Fraser River. The fish are always travelling, so you will only catch some if you put in the hours. Eventually, you bound to encounter a few fish.

I persuaded Nina to stay for another hour or so, to catch the first part of the outgoing tide because sometimes it can be just as productive. The bites indeed came on at around 3:30pm. I first released a bull trout, then a northern pikeminnow. It is pretty unusual to encounter minnows during this time of the year because water is cooler and keeps them inactive. I guess this year is bit of an exception due to the sunny days. Nina missed a good hit on the bait rod just before 4:00pm. I retrieved the line for her, rebaited, cast it out. As soon as the bait settled, when I tightened the line, another good take occurred. Because I still had the rod in my hands, I set the hook well and in came a good sized coho jack. Our friend netted it for me and we could clearly see the adipose fin so freedom was granted after a couple of photographs were taken.

Tidal Fraser River Coho Jack

After the release, I proceeded to miss three light takes on a spoon. There was definitely a school of jacks moving through but it was rather brief. We ended the outing at 4:30pm. This has been another memorable, successful Thanksgiving Weekend in the Tidal Fraser River.

Water clarity during the outgoing tide degraded really fast for some reason. Incoming tide’s water clarity is sitting at between 2 and 3 feet, which is more than enough for spinners and spoons to stay visible in the water.

The Calm Before the Storm?

Published on Thursday, October 4th, 2012

While many British Columbians are enjoying this exceptionally warm, dry and sunny weather in early October, it is not all good news. Coastal rivers across this province are getting lower each day and returning adult salmon are running out of time to enter their spawning streams. The rain will come, but when it does, it may also cause more trouble for returning salmon. If you have fished for quite awhile, you should remember that in 2006 we also experienced very warm and dry weather throughout most of October. When the rain arrived, the ground could not absorb it fast enough. As the rain fell, river rose to flood level. This sudden changes in discharge can be deadly for both spawning salmon and those eggs that are already in redds. It also cuts down fishing time because the rivers will not recover for many weeks. With that being said, salmon always somehow overcome these environmental extremes and return in large numbers. In fact, we are experiencing some excellent coho salmon returns so far in 2012. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate in the next few weeks by gradually cooling down and sending down some needed water in small quantity each day.

Low Water Does Not Deter Salmon Return

Published on Monday, October 1st, 2012

If you live in the Lower Mainland and fish the Chilliwack River, you will notice that water level is at its all-time low. Many anglers have suggested that these conditions make it impossible for salmon to enter the stream, which explains the poor fishing.

While the bulk of the salmon run is still waiting for higher water, fish have definitely been moving into the river for many weeks now. Fishing is challenging when water is lower not due to a lack of fish, but they tend to be easily spooked under heavy fishing pressure.

Crowded fishing spot at Chilliwack River

In the past week, we have been able to connect with several coho salmon. Best fishing is of course at first light when fish are still unaware of their surroundings. Float fishing with a spinner has been great to me, while fishing with roe seems challenging as the bites are too light at times.

Chilliwack River Hatchery Coho Salmon

On the weekend, we decided to see how many fish were already in the Chilliwack Salmon Hatchery. The channel leading up to the hatchery is indeed quite full of both chinook salmon and coho salmon. Here are a couple of photographs and video. If you still doubt that there are fish in the river, then perhaps these will boost your confidence during your next outing.

Learn more about Chilliwack River’s fall salmon fishery…

Salmon at Chilliwack Salmon Hatchery

Salmon at Chilliwack Salmon Hatchery

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