SpruceRoots Magazine - December, 1998

George Farrell of the Hecate Strait Streamkeepers explains stream dynamics to school kids.


Volunteers define the word dedication

Story by John McCartney Farrell

This was a year to remember... the coast-wide ban on fishing coho allowed for record numbers of salmon to return to the rivers and streams of Haida Gwaii. Fish managers say 1998 will be a benchmark from which to judge returns of coho in the future. And old timers will talk about the year you could walk across the creeks on their silvery backs.

Lets take a look at the salmon enhancement and stream restoration activity that took place throughout the Islands during this coho bonanza.

Hecate Strait Streamkeepers
The Streamkeepers restored 19 streams around Skidegate Inlet in July and
August with a budget of $100,000 and a crew of five... working with handtools. To the group's added credit, the work was done on the cheap - $4,000-$5,000 a stream. Assessments were carried out by members, some of whom have over 20 years of stream-walking-fish-counting experience. All the streams they restored had been severely damaged through logging activity during the 1960s and 1970s.

Western Forest Products - Sewell Inlet
As one of the oldest hatcheries in the province, this project predates DFO's Salmon Enhancement Program. Slightly under 100,000 coho salmon are released every year to the enhanced streams of Tasu Inlet by a dedicated bunch of volunteers. This year saw a return of 400-500 fish to the 2 km stretch before the waterfall on Tasu Creek, mainly due to enhancement. As in most cases on the Islands, volunteers hump the fry up the rivers in backpacks.

Participants in a Hecate Strait Streamkeepes stand on top of a rock groyne.


Skidegate Inlet Sportsfishing Association
This "totally volunteer run program" with a crew of 10 from Sandspit - under the tutelage of DFO's Community Advisor Dave Davies - operate a hatchery at Alliford Bay. The program: to enhance depressed coho stocks in northeast Moresby Island. About 120,000 salmon were released between Sachs, Haans, Blaine and Baxter creeks.

How do you define dedication? Drive down an ungraded road to the Deena River bridge, every day, to feed the fish. That's what it took to enhance Gray Bay Creek and Sheldons Creek coho. TimberWest employees released about 30,000 fry to each creek via truck and helicopter.

The Kids
Aquariums were set-up in classrooms at five elementary schools: Tahayghen, Port Clements, Agnes L Mathers, Skidegate and the Living and Learning School (QCC). Dave Davies gave the children the skinny on the life cycle of the salmon and then the kids went to work incubating eggs, feeding fry and then releasing the fish to local streams.

Bearskin Bay Streamkeepers
Behind the cool moniker you'll find teacher Kevin Borserio's Grade 11/12 outdoor education class at Queen Charlotte Secondary. They focused their attention on Crabapple Creek, that runs through the MacMillan Bloedel log sort outside of Charlotte. They completed a basic stream assessment, tested the water quality, collected water bugs and trapped fry on the creek damaged a few years ago by a diesel spill. The students also assisted fry release on other streams.

Northern Trollers Association
The NTA runs a hatchery in Queen Charlotte on private land in Charlotte. Members conduct stream assessments and coho enhancement. The hatchery has helped to strengthen depressed coho stocks in Jungle, Mollitors, Honna and Tarundle creeks. Volunteers run the show: collecting eggs, maintaining the hatchery and backpack releasing 140,000 fry each spring.

Lawnhill Residence Group
The Davies brothers are the heart and soul of this volunteer project, operating a permanent counting fence on Jungle Creek. They use the fence to catch the fish for the hatchery in QCC.

Tlell Watershed Society
Research was a priority this year. The Society is building a coho counting fence on the lower Tlell with a $150,500 budget from DFO. The data gathered from the project will measure the health and abundance of coho stocks in the Tlell and act as an indicator for other rivers on Graham Island. Feather Lake is sporting cutthroat weighing in at 2lbs... not bad for a lake. This we know because the society has been sampling streams and lakes to gather data on mostly, juvenile coho. Permanent indicator sites were established throughout the upper Tlell to create a baseline of information from which to judge the effects of any future logging in the area. More than $10,000 was raised for this project from the Pacific Salmon Foundation, MoF and MacMillan Bloedel.

Port Clements Salmon Enhancement Club
Adult volunteers assisted by young students from Port Clements Elementary released 25,000 coho fry to Blackwater Creek, a tributary of the Mamin River.

Chris Marrs
One person's concern for highway culverts blocking coho migration led to a successful recovery project on two creeks. Marrs secured funding from the Ministry of Highways to improve fish access on Millard and Nadu creeks. Weirs were built across the creeks, creating pools that allowed fish to pass through the culverts.

Kumdis Lodge
What good can be done with an artesian well? A sport fishing lodge owner decided to find out. The result was the construction of a rearing trough fed by water from the well. During the winter, coho from Jungle Creek will be reared and then returned as smolts in the spring.

Chown Brook Group
This group of volunteers run a two-headed research project that is the first of its kind on the North Coast. The group operates a fence in the fall to count returning adults and runs another fence in the spring to count coho smolts as they leave.

G.M. Dawson
High school students, under a work experience program, conducted a stream assessment on Wylie Creek.

Husby Forest Products
Meanwhile, at Eden Lake, about 2,000 coho were released to Torney Creek from a hatchery in its first year of operation.

Old Massett Village Council
The Yakoun River Hatchery, run by the village council under a contract with DFO, enhances threatened chinook runs. The hatcherys greatest contribution comes from bringing back a salmon run on the brink of extinction. There was an estimated 500-700 chinook returning to the system in the mid-1980s. Through enhancement, returning fish now number in the thousands. Hatchery staff released 166,000 chinook fry into the Yakoun in June. By the fall, they had collected 298,000 chinook eggs and 60,000 coho eggs.


SpruceRoots Magazine - December, 1998