Chinook salmon for the Salmon
A success story for sayward fish and game club and CRSF
By Dan MacLennan, Campbell River Courier-Islander March 9, 2012
Promising chinook returns to the Salmon River are good news to members of the Sayward Fish and Game Club.
Mike Gage says chinook were found last fall as far upriver as the diversion dam, almost 60 kilometres from the estuary
“That’s the first time to our recollection that chinook salmon have ever been that high up the river,” said Gage, who is the President of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation which has contributed money to the project. “They were right up to the diversion dam. The other two species that have made it that far up in large numbers have been steelhead and coho, and now we’ve got chinook there so we’re pleased that the work of the Sayward Fish and Game Club has paid off.”
Gage attributes the chinook success to a brood stock capture in the fall of 2007 near the estuary by members of the club. The eggs were raised to the eyed stage at the Sayward Hatchery and then transferred to the Quinsam Hatchery for further rearing. Hatchery staff released roughly 100,000 smolts up near the dam in late April 2008. Four years after the brood capture, Gage said at least six mature chinook were seen just below the dam.
“Because we released these smolts in 2008 at the diversion dam, they’ve been imprinted on the river all the way down to the estuary,” he said.
“We were very pleased to see the fish returning and how far up the river they’ve gone. They’ve followed the imprinting right up to where they were released.”
Club members couldn’t take brood stock last fall because the river was too high, “this year we’ll be trying again,” Gage said.
“We’re hoping to do a brood stock capture every fall until we’re satisfied we’ve built the stock up to where they can take care of themselves. Their numbers are improving. We’re really thrilled that we’re building them up in the available anadromous fish spawning water up as far as the diversion dam.”
Gage call the Salmon River chinook the ‘first cousins’ of the Campbell River Tyee.
“They arrive back in the river almost exactly the same time of year,” he said. “It looks like they spawn at almost exactly the same time as the ones do in the Campbell. They’re very big fish. The Salmon River was famous for its big chinook back in the ’30s.”
He said it helps that the habitat alongside the Salmon River has been recovering as well.
“The old-growth timber was logged off in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s and it’s now coming back wonderfully,” he said. “There’s huge stands of second growth so we’ve got way better water conditions, especially in the upper river.”