It's Rush Hour in the Rivers
Seven species of salmonids; coho, chum, chinook, pink, sockeye, steelhead and cutthroat, are part of the various salmon runs in the rivers on Vancouver Island and are also the focus of the federal government’s Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP). The autumn salmon runs mark both the beginning and the end of the salmon lifecycle. Through a remarkable feat of nature, each salmon will return from the open sea to the exact river from which they hatched, to repeat the process, and begin the cycle anew for the next generation of Pacific salmon.
There are numerous ways to experience the salmon runs, but one of the most unique and rewarding is getting in the water to experience the “fisheye” view. Snorkelling the run of the river or freediving in the canyons and pools where the fish gather, is an incredible experience you won’t likely forget for years to come.
Here are a few of our local favourite spots to enjoy the natural phenomenal of the Pacific Salmon spawning events:
Visit the Quinsam hatchery to walk the trails, or head to the Canyon View Trail where snorkelling, fishing, and diving in the canyons all are ways to experience the salmon runs in the Campbell River. A variety of salmon species use this iconic river as a breeding ground returning home to where they hatched from their far-reaching ocean explorations.
Stamp River, Port Alberni
Salmon runs begin in late August in Stamp River Provincial Park, running all the way into December. Full of walking trails and beautiful views, you can watch sockeye; coho, and Chinook circle the pool below Stamp Falls before climbing fish ladders to get to their spawning beds.
Puntledge River Hatchery, Courtenay
Fun for the whole family! Snorkel, swim, tube or walk the interpretive trails to see the Chum, pink, coho, chinook and steelhead that spawn in the river. The best times to see adult chum in November; coho, October-November; chinook, September-October. Spawning steelhead in February-March. Juvenile coho and steelhead year-round; chum fry March-April;pink fry February-April; juvenile chinook February-June.
As outdoor adventurists we must always be cognisant of our impacts and it’s important to treat the river ways, and salmon with the respect they deserve. The salmon runs are integral to health of not only the drove of predators including bears and eagles that show up for the annual feasts, but the carcasses of the salmon left behind have far reaching impacts on the forest ecosystems through which the rivers pass. Think of the rivers as blood vessels that are transporting the essential nutrients the salmon have amassed in their bodies at sea, far inland to forests that rely on these decomposing salmon to thrive.
With the sensitivity of these systems in mind, there are countless ways to enjoy the natural wonder of the salmon runs on Vancouver Island.