Sunday, 1 June 2014

DFO Hatchery Plans on Vancouver Island

I just got a terrific DFO table of the 2013 egg take projections for BC and thus the 2014 plants of fry, as well as some 2015 coho output. The overall projection was 586 million eggs, corresponding to more than a half billion fry put out. When you consider the entire Salmon Enhancement Program budget averages $25 million annually, and only 60% of that, or about $15.5 million goes directly to enhancement, a whole lot of work gets done for very little money.

The major hatcheries on Vancouver Island are: the Nitinat west of Cowichan; Robertson Creek, Port Alberni; Conuma, Nootka Sound; and, the Quinsam, Campbell River. There are smaller ones all over the Island, including, San Juan, Quatse, Puntledge, Cowichan and so on, with dozens of volunteer projects, the pink releases for the beach fly fisheries from Qualicum to Campbell River, for example. Also, there are many netpens for a few weeks of feeding and release, for example, in Sidney, and shortly, our local South Vancouver Island Angling Coalition, hopes for Victoria/Esquimalt.

Many hatcheries are doing interesting things. The Puntledge gets early summer and fall chinook, with work being done trucking early fish to cool water and then returning them when the rains begin in fall for spawning of both, as well as imprinting experiments on both runs.

A lot of science now gets done at hatcheries. Some, including the Nitinat, create habitat complexity in their raceways, use natural feed (krill) and do predator conditioning to produce smolts better adapted to release into the natural environment. This is in partnership with several universities.

Genetic-based tagging of chinook is used to assess size inheritability in hatchery fish. This work explores whether larger Chinook adults can be produced through fish culture by using older and larger brood stock. Chinook in enriched environments are already showing returns of larger, older (five-year) females on Vancouver Island.

Genetic-based tagging and delayed hatchery release of southern coho stocks is used to assess differences in marine distribution. The purpose is to answer questions like: do later releasees stay in Georgia Strait where they are available to sport fisheries? Anglers will recall more grilse in our winter fisheries, some of which would be these fish, but with the dramatic decline of Georgia coho in the late ‘80s, spring blueback fishing pretty much disappeared. I remember taking coho to five pounds off the Winchelseas on a regular basis in the spring. And Saanich Inlet used to have a Cowichan River blueback fishery in January until the early ‘90s.

Here are stats for the large hatcheries, in millions:


Robertson Creek




Big Qualicum

The one surprise here is the Somass system, that will produce 1.8 million sockeye returnees this summer, only enhances 100,000 fish, so a very healthy system. You may recall they elevated Sproat sockeye numbers by fertilizing the lake with basic elements. Last winter, while stumbling about, Spey fishing for late coho, I was surprised to find the Taylor, above Sproat Lake, still had sockeye waiting to spawn in January.

In addition to the table numbers are smaller takes for other rivers not included above; Chapman Creek, for instance, got 135,000 Big Q chinook fry and 950,000 pinks from the Quinsam. The Cowichan harvested 700,000 of its own chinook. Esquimalt Harbour received 200,000 Nitinat chinook. As is common for the other large hatcheries, the Quinsam specializes. It puts out most of the pinks we fish for all along Georgia Strait, a total of 15.3 million. The Little Q produces 38.45 chum; the spawning channel in the Big Q produces as many in its man-made stream. The Conuma, also takes chinook for many local Nootka Sound rivers, including the Burman, Canton, Gold, Sucwoa and Tlupana.

Closer to home, the Sooke River, popular with fly guys above the bridge and gear guys below, does its own egg taking. It is supplemented by the river and other hatcheries. Chinook eggs/fry are 602,500 from the Nitinat and 229,000 from Sooke itself. The De Mamiel coho take was 141,000 eggs.

All these numbers represent hatchery work and do not include river escapement that spawns naturally. If you want the table, send me a note.

Oak Bay Marina Saturday, May 31: While I slaved over my boat, other guys were not only out on the water but they were catching my fish. I grumbled, walking by a 20-pound hatchery spring taken on small anchovy on the Flats. And just as I was dragging my battery down the dock, another lucky angler flopped down the halibut catch of several anglers. Three flatties to 42 pounds taken on an unspecified – meaning he wouldn’t tell me – spire south of Trial. Herring and octopus.

No comments:

Post a Comment