Fish wrestling in Port Coquitlam for fun and to protect salmon stock
Every Saturday in November, an autumn ritual will take place in a rushing creek next to Coast Meridian Road in Port Coquitlam.
While many people are enjoying a quiet coffee with friends or the morning paper, or driving children to soccer games, a group of men armed with fish nets and wearing hip waders will splash into Hyde Creek, taking care not slip on slimy stones.
They'll set up a seine net and, just as the coho and chum salmon are about to meander further up the creek to spawn, the volunteers will snatch up a few of the wriggling creatures and deposit them in a tub.
To bystanders, it probably looks like fish wrestling, but for volunteers like Shane Peachman, a veteran of the annual fish take, the job of scooping up the pairs of male and female chum and coho is a task necessary to ensure healthy, vibrant salmon runs in Hyde Creek for years to come.
What's more, says Peachman, the job, although wet, smelly and messy, is also enjoyable.
"It's the most fun time of the whole year," he said. "The rest of the time, you're babysitting."
COLLECTING BROOD STOCK
Peachman and the other members of the Hyde Creek Watershed Society will do this job every Saturday for the next several weeks so they have enough brood stock to be able to collect and fertilize several thousand eggs, using the milt from the male brood stock. They'll raise the fish over several months at the fish hatchery before depositing them back in the creek so they make their way out to the ocean — and, eventually, back to Hyde Creek to spawn.
This past Sunday, when the day was clear and cold, volunteers were excited by what they saw: fish, and plenty of them. And not only chum, which is normal for this time of year, but several prized coho, too, which is early for this species.
"It's usually chum after Thanksgiving," Peachman said, noting the creek at that time was low because of dry weather, so the salmon had been in a holding pattern at DeBoville Slough waiting for the rain to come and the the water level in the creek to rise.
When the rain did finally arrive, with last weekend's deluge, the fish swarmed the creek, Peachman said, and volunteers were astounded by what they saw.
They easily collected enough brood stock for that week's take: five female chum and seven males, and five female coho salmon and seven males.
"I'm pulling them out, 'Wow, another coho. Look at that beautiful fish,'" said Peachman, recalling the experience. "The guys got awful excited.
"It looks like a good run in both coho and chum," Peachman said.
Not all of the female fish were ready but if sheer numbers tell any story, it's that the efforts of the last few years have paid off, and there will be more fish returning to Hyde Creek for the annual fish take next year.
DON'T FORGET THE SALMON FESTIVAL
The 14th Annual Hyde Creek Salmon Festival will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17 at the Hyde Creek Education Centre and Hatchery and Hyde Creek rec centre. The event will feature educational displays and interactive exhibits celebrating the return of the salmon and their amazing life cycle. For more information, visit www.hydecreek.org. Also, read The Tri-City News next week for more on this event.