The 2016 Salmon Out Migration is well underway now in rivers on the Pacific Northwest coast.
Since March there has been an spectacle of nature ocurring that most people never see. From land it can be witnessed by loads of birds in the estuary mouths and rivers. But otherwise unless you are looking underwater it is easy to miss this annual event. Right now the Campbell River and others are teeming with millions of tiny salmon fry making their way from the spawning beds to the areas where they will start to grow up into the magnificent salmon we see return to the same waters each year. Pink and Chum salmon from the Quinsam and Campbell system leave the area of hatching and immediately head downstream to the ocean in large numbers, generally at night and hanging out in the protected waters edge under vegetation during the day. They exit the river relatively quickly and all during the same time. Large schools of fry can be seen travelling along the shoreline over the next month or so up and down the coast. Coho and Chinook salmon spend a year or two in freshwater before heading out to sea. The young chinook like to spend a lot of the time in the estuary area while the coho spread out into every available waterway, from the main river to tiny side channels that dry up later in the year.
All four species of Salmon that spawn in the Campbell River / Quinsam River system are represented here in this photo.
The lower Campbell River areas have had massive amounts of remediation over the years to restore it back to how it was pre industry days. Now there is a lot of habitat for the fish to rear in. All along the Canyon View trail and and around Baikie Island are channels that are used, both for rearing and spawning in the fall. A lot of the pictures in this post were taken in and around the Raven channel that parallels the Campbell River below the highway bridges. Fallen trees and over hanging vegetation is critical for the fish to hide in and feel protected. The worst thing for them is a wide open channel free of obstructions. Clearly the use of a water way for industrial uses is quite at odds with what is needed for a healthy salmon population.
Chum Salmon congregating near the safety of fallen vegetation along the banks of the Campbell RIver.
I also spent some time in the Phillips River watershed this year helping out the Guillard Pass Fisheries Association in their work in that river. This is located on the mainland between Bute and Loughborough Inlets. There is a large Chinook enhancement project there that has been going on for some time. In March I helped with installing three Rotary Screw Traps (RST) into various parts of the river. These were flown in by helicopter and then anchored via ropes crossing the river. The purpose of these is to trap a sample of the salmon out migrating so numbers can be determined to asses the effectiveness of the enhancement. Just this last weekend we were back there for three days helping out counting and measuring the fish. All 5 species of salmon were recorded as well as Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. The Phillips / Clearwater is a very productive watershed and it is great to be a part of what goes on up there.
Chum fry hiding in marginal plants in the Campbell River.
Chum Fry along the banks of the Campbell River.
Coho Fry from the Quinsam River.Hatchery.
Coho Salmon Par from the Phillips River.
Coho Salmon Smolt in the lower reaches of the Phillips River.
Phillips River Sockeye Salmon fry
Sockeye Salmon smolt after spending a year in the Phillips Lake.
Quinsam River Hatchery Pink Salmon Fry.
Group of Pink Salmon Fry.from the Quinsam Hatchery.
Closeup of a Chinook Salmon Fry head showing the intricate pigmentation patterns.
Phillips River Chinook fry.
Group of Campbell River Chinook fry hiding in the grasses at the edge of the river with one Coho and a couple Chum joining in.
Heres hoping that all these little fish have a healthy start to their life and good ocean survival so that in the next few years they return and start the cycle all over again.