If anyone wondered what all those anglers were doing on the Campbell River through August and early September, Ed Walls has the answer.
The Watershed Enhancement Manager for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Quinsam River Hatchery, says this year’s run of pink salmon is more than four times that of last year. It could tickle half a million.
He says the total run of pink salmon was 450,000 plus, and “they are still coming.”
Last year 99,000 pinks returned to the Campbell/Quinsam system. The return in 2017 was 111,000.
With such a large return this year, the hatchery can easily provide the Puntledge River, Fanny Bay, Nile Creek, and Nanaimo River with eggs for their pink salmon programs.
Coho salmon are also trickling into the system, he said.
The 2017 return of 3,300 was less than half of what was expected. But 2,000 jack coho (immature males) also returned to the system in 2017. That kind of jack return can mean a healthier run in the following year.
“Sometimes it seems to work like that,” says Walls. “If you get a strong run of jacks it kind of indicates they did well going into the ocean, and in the following year you might get the correspondingly strong adult return.”
In 2018 that proved correct, with 6,200 adults and 3,800 jacks returning. Fingers crossed for this year.
As for the iconic Campbell River Chinook, Walls said early results look “maybe” for a “strong return.”
While no Chinook were counted in the Quinsam as of last week, about 2,500 were counted in the Campbell.
The 2017 return of Chinook to the Quinsam was 9,500, with another 600 spawning in the Campbell. In 2018 the return was 6,500 Chinooks, 660 of which spawned in what gravel is left in the river.
Meanwhile, the Tyee Club of British Columbia endured one of its worst years ever, with only 13 registered Chinook hitting 30 lbs or more. The club season ran from July 15 to Sept. 15 and was adversely affected by fishing closures. The largest fish of the year was 36 pounds.
The next ‘show’ on the Quinsam/Campbell system will be the opening for coho retention in the river. As of Oct. 1, anglers are allowed four coho per day, only two of which may be greater than 35 cm, and they must be hatchery marked, meaning no adipose fin.