From my perspective easily the most important event in the wide world of fishing around southern BC this past week had nothing to do with rod and line and everything to do with the environment that sustains our recreation – it rained. And it rained and then some more, fortunately with breaks in between precipitation events but some of the downpours were as intense as any I’ve witnessed in over four decades of living on this coast.
The fact that the rain was so desperately needed is illustrated by the accompanying photo of the mid-section of Menzies Creek, which flows into the sea near Seymour Narrows just up coast from Campbell River. The picture was taken from the bridge over the creek on the road to Browns Bay on August 26, looking up gradient – there’s no stream to justify the use of the word upstream.
People often ask me what’s happened to coho, well this picture is an indication. Much comment over the past few decades has been expended on the frequently poor early ocean survival of coho, but they have to make it to the smolt stage and leave freshwater first before life at sea becomes an issue. Because coho salmon favour small streams and they’ve evolved to have a fairly lengthy freshwater life history before migrating to the sea, coho have to survive a summer residency in their home watershed. Hard for juvenile salmon to survive when there’s no water!
Multiply the consequences across the many similar small streams around southern BC and you can quickly appreciate how devastating the aggregate effect of these very dry summers are to the small stream trout and salmon populations. Some juveniles manage to hang on in remnant pools of water so if you do catch a few coho in the summer of 2018 it may just be because the rain that fell across the region over the past week saved their lives.
Hopefully the low-pressure front managed to bring similar weather to the BC interior, raising water levels and lowering water temperatures in watersheds large and small across that huge area as well. With the aggregate return of sockeye to the Fraser River this year easily the smallest on record and many of the individual stocks now already engaged in spawning, optimum water conditions to allow for maximum reproductive success are needed to start the rebuilding process quickly.
In my hometown of Campbell River the traditional late summer fishery for chinook returning to the river of the same name continues despite a slow start in the Tyee Pool area closest to the rivermouth itself. Most effort takes place in rowboats under Tyee Club (www.tyeeclub.org) rules although some anglers fish out of powerboats in the lower section of the pool adjacent to the mine wharf.
For reasons only known to the fish themselves the majority of the holding chinook salmon are staging to the southeast, similar to 2014. The most productive fishing in 2016 by far has been further down along the downtown waterfront and the fishing pier is having a banner season, quite possibly the best ever in its 25+ year history for large chinook. Even though I choose to pursue the tyee the old fashioned way, in a rowboat, the fact that those fishing from shore have a good chance to catch the fish of a lifetime is something to celebrate and is one more reason that makes Campbell River a special place to go fishing.
Slowly though more chinook appear to be showing in Tyee Pool and September 2 was, relatively speaking, a productive day with three fish added to the Tyee Club catch record. Notable was the pair of thirty and a half pounders landed on the early afternoon low tide change by the experienced duo of Dale Kashuba on the rod and Randy Killoran on the oars. As his track record over the years will show Randy is the preeminent rowing guide of his generation and Dale, an annual visitor from Alberta, knows the value of simply putting in time and their persistence paid off big time, congratulations to them both on a special catch.
One feature of this catch is that it was the first time since 2012 that an angler has landed two registered tyee’s during one day under Tyee Club rules. This feat is recognized by the Club with the E.B. Ballantine trophy, unfortunately not something that gets awarded every year in recent decades. As someone who has had a hand in a couple of these events I know how difficult such a catch is to achieve! Anyway, with a few tyee’s being caught recently spirits are up in the rowing community and hopefully there’s few more to come before the seasons close on September 15.