A volunteer holds up a wild Gorge Coho at the Craigflower Creek counting fence. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Salmon counters ‘disappointed’ with 119 cohos in Colquitz this season

Long-time volunteer blames predators, sediment contamination for lower numbers

Salmon in the City volunteers reported 119 coho salmon came through the Colquitz River fish fence this year.

Volunteers visit the fish fence in Cuthbert Holmes Park on a daily basis in the fall to count salmon as they make their way up the Colquitz River. All counts are reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The fish fence panels temporarily trap fish that swim through so that the Salmon in the City team can monitor them and collect data. The first coho – a small male – appeared a week after the Sept. 29 installation.

READ ALSO: First coho of the season spotted in the Colquitz River

The fall rains came early this year so the salmon had a clear river to swim in for spawning, noted long-time volunteer Dorothy Chambers.

The salmon came up the river sporadically through the beginning of October. Following a bout of rain, 24 cohos appeared on Oct. 18.

As the season progressed, the fish continued to head up the river. A total of 119 fish were counted before the panels were removed on Nov. 29 – 59 males, 43 females, 14 young males and three unidentified fish. Last year, 218 cohos were counted, 315 came through in 2017 and 1,121 in 2016.

READ ALSO: Saanich schoolkids observe salmon dissections in Cuthbert Holmes Park

Only one cutthroat, steelhead and chinook were spotted in the trap and no hatchery fish were counted, Chambers noted.

“I am so very disappointed with our returns this year,” she said, pointing out the effects of the sediment contamination over the past few years.

READ ALSO: Water contamination halts CRD project construction at Colquitz River

Chambers also noted that increased seal and otter predation likely contributed to the low numbers of salmon this year.

The daily visits from school kids and community members brightened the mood at the fish fence. In mid-November, Students from Tillicum Elementary got to watch members of the World Fisheries Trust conduct educational dissections on frozen chum supplied by the Goldstream Hatchery.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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