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November 2013 Photo-essay

Published on Sunday, November 24th, 2013

November can be a rather somber month for Coastal British Columbian anglers. The air temperature dips below zero for the first time after a long summer, while most of us are still on a high driven by the return of fall salmon. River fishing for salmon usually starts tapering off by early November, but those who enjoy exploring in the frosty mornings can be rewarded with some fabulous fishing.

Last week I decided to give salmon fishing another go before packing away the rods for awhile. The short trip was well worth it as my friend Shane and I were both rewarded with coho and chum salmon. I managed to catch an exceptionally big coho salmon, the biggest one of the season in fact.

Big Coho Salmon from the Fraser Valley BC

This fish had me thinking it was a chum salmon for a couple of minutes while it fought stubbornly by staying deeply in the run. I casually played it, but became rather cautious as soon as I realized what was at the end of the line. This hatchery-marked buck, estimated to be around 12lb, was quite fresh compared to the other fish we encountered that day.

While my friend Shane was not lucky enough to encounter a similar specimen, he managed to connect with an even larger fish. It was a wild coho salmon, as the presence of its adipose fin suggested, so we gently released him back to spawn.

A Big Wild Coho Salmon

Other coho salmon we found at the end of the line were not as silver, which was not really a surprise considering we are now approaching December.

Darker Coho Salmon

Among the many chum salmon which we brought in, I noticed a few were exceptionally small. This fish, approximately 3 or 4lb, was much smaller than most chum salmon we usually see. I enquired about this small buck and my colleagues all concluded that it is most likely a 3 year old fish, rather than a typical 4 year old fish. The fish simply returned one year earlier, therefore it has missed out one extra year of feeding, resulting in a smaller size.

An Exceptionally Small Chum Salmon

In the past two weeks I have wandered around our urban streams in the Lower Mainland. Because we are seeing an exceptionally good return of coho salmon this year, it is not surprising to see these small streams filled with red spawners. My recent visit to Hyde Creek produced these photographs. Both spawning coho and chum salmon can be found along the entire creek. At some spots, hundreds of fish can be seen circling around. These sightings tell us, when given the chance, our salmon populations can thrive, even in the harshest environment such as Metro Vancouver.

Spawning Coho and Chum Salmon at Hyde Creek

While visiting the creek, I stopped by the hatchery to see volunteers from Hyde Creek Watershed Society in action. It is a rather busy time of the year for them, because spawners need to be collected, eggs need to be fertilized, and carcasses need to be counted.

Seining for spawning salmon in Hyde Creek

Collecting salmon broodstock at Hyde Creek

A Coho Salmon in Its Spawning Phase

Spawning Salmon Resting Peacefully in Pristine Hyde Creek

If you have packed away your fishing rods for the season, consider becoming a volunteer at one of many community watershed stewardship groups and hatcheries where help is always wanted. It is a entertaining way to give back to the fishery resource and gain a better understanding on the biology of Pacific 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.

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

Lac Le Jeune Resort

Published on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

May usually marks the stillwater fishing season in the Thompson-Nicola region. Like most lake fishing enthusiasts, we like to load up the boat and head up from Vancouver to catch some fine rainbow trout. There has been a delay this year, due to the late departure of winter, or late arrival of spring, whatever you want to call it. Most lakes had ice on them a couple weeks longer than usual.

A couple of weeks ago, Nina’s family was visiting from Denmark and they wanted us to travel to Lac Le Jeune with them. Several years ago, they visited the area by chance during a stopover to Banff and they really enjoyed the few hours while they were there. I have never been, but have constantly heard fly fishermen bringing it up over the years so was curiously to check it out.

A couple of days before we headed to the lake, I was informed that the lake was still frozen so I chose not to bring my fishing rods. What a mistake that was! I was ready to make a shuttle run back to Vancouver to get them when I saw no ice on the lake upon our arrival. Although I was not able to wet a line, it was going to be a good stay when I noticed the abundance of wildlife in the area.

Our accommodation for the trip was Lac Le Jeune Resort. Normally when we go lake fishing in the Thompson-Nicola region, we either camp or stay at a hotel in Merritt or Kamloops. Never had I expected to find a fine resort in the middle of no where. Lac Le Jeune Resort is not what you’d call a luxury resort, but you can sense its warmth as soon as you step into it. The resort provides two styles of accommodation. You can either stay at the lodge rooms or rent an entire cabin nearby. The resort sits slightly higher than the lake so the view is absolutely breath taking at anytime of the day.

Lac Le Jeune Resort

Cabin at Lac Le Jeune Resort

Lac Le Jeune

The birds were being fed at the doorstep. One can just stand there and watch them for hours. Our host settled us in right away when we arrived and informed us that dinner would be served at 6:30pm. Already impressed, we were even more pleasantly surprised when it was time to dine. The dining room sits by the lake, so we could watch loons, beavers and of course, trout, splashing about while we ate.

Dining at Lac Le Jeune Resort

Dinner menu at Lac Le Jeune Resort

Dinner at Lac Le Jeune Resort

Dessert at Lac Le Jeune Resort

At first Nina and I were concerned that we would not have anything to do at the lake without our fishing rods. The alternatives solved that problem pretty fast. We walked along the lake shore on both days and the wildlife kept us entertained. Nina’s family also thoroughly enjoyed their visit as the lake lived up to their expectation. They were most fascinated by these huge beavers that always seem so busy around the lake. I was able to practice my photography on the birds and squirrels that couldn’t get enough of the feeds on the resort’s patio.

Red squirrel at Lac Le Jeune

Here is a short video of some of the wildlife footages from Lac Le Jeune.

After seeing some fine rainbow trout jumping on both evenings while we were there, I am now itching to return with my fishing rods.

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