COURTENAY RESIDENT Peter Rabey shows off a chinook salmon

Coho back in local waters

The question is why they have returned in such large numbers after lengthy absence

Longtime Courtenay fisherman Larry Peterson noticed coho are back in the area this year, and he’s wondering why.

“In the old days I used to catch 60 coho in a year,” says Peterson, who has been fishing in Comox Valley waters for nearly 45 years. “Then it changed — after ’93 I would catch anywhere from eight to 15 a year, and if I got 15 I was happy. This year I’m 25 pushing 30 and have taken most of August off to do other things like fish ling cod and pink salmon.”

This year, Peterson has caught coho off Kitty Coleman and Point Holmes, as well as areas around Campbell River. Peterson says everyone’s been catching them this year, and the question of why they’ve returned is at the front of people’s minds.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans area director for South Coast B.C. Andrew Thomson agrees there’s been a rise in coho this year.

“What we’ve seen in South Coast B.C., all around South Coast, but particularly the Strait of Georgia and off the West Coast is significant increases in abundance of coho, to the point that we’re looking at numbers of coho, chinook in the south coast areas that we haven’t seen for 20 years, if not more,” says Thomson, pointing to good ocean conditions over the past year as a likely reason the fish are abundant.

“The things that are going to impact juvenile salmon when they leave the river system are going to be food — sometimes toxicology, but that’s rare — and also temperatures, and predator abundance,” he continues. “It appears they must have had a very good physical environment, so there was no toxins or other things in the water, but also it must have been much improved food access because in order to see this survival rate they would had to put on weight quite fast.”

Thomson says DFO staff have been searching for factors that could have led to the increase this year. DFO will also conduct a post-season review, and have been monitoring the docks and doing creel surveys to try an get an accurate count of the fish.

Peterson says he first spotted coho in March and suggested the fish overwintered in the Strait, rather than travelling elsewhere to find food, but Thomson says DFO hasn’t confirmed that yet.

“We don’t have data points that we’ve analyzed from this season looking at whether or not they did overwinter or they’ve been around longer,” he says. “But, I mean that’ll certainly be one of the factors we’ll look into at the end of the season to see if there’s some relation to their residency in the Strait of Georgia.”

He also says it’s too early to tell if the abundance of coho this year is related to the conservation measures, like restrictions on catch rates, put in place over the years.

“One year’s data point doesn’t give us that and we’ll have to look at it over a period of time,” he says adding he hopes the conservation measures have contributed to the return.

As for whether the coho numbers will be good next year too, Thomson can’t say yet.

“We certainly hope so,” he says. “It’s far too early at the moment to be definitive on the long-term effects but it’s been such a dramatic improvement I think we’re all just grinning and hoping that this is a long-term trend.”

 

DFO is still assessing coho numbers in the Puntledge and Courtenay rivers and has not opened the fishery as of Wednesday. The daily catch limit of coho in the ocean is two fish per day, hatchery marked only.

 

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Motorcyclist dead following crash on Strathcona Parkway

A 29 year old man has died following a motorcycle crash on… Continue reading

Sarah Rebitt named the Vanier recipient of the Governor General’s Award

Sarah Rebitt was named the recipient of the 2018 Governor General’s Award… Continue reading

Vancouver Island pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Bylaw rescinded after vacation rental owners express concerns

Concerns included a lack of consultation

Get ready for a week of sunshine across Vancouver Island

Environment Canada is forecasting temperatures in the high teens all this week

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

Bob Castle’s Under The Glacier cartoon for Sept. 25, 2018

Bob Castle’s Under The Glacier cartoon for Sept. 25, 2018… Continue reading

Sister of plane crash victim that went missing in B.C. starting support network

Tammy Neron wants to help families who are searching for missing people

‘Hello, 911? There’s a horse in my living room’

Sproat Lake firefighters called to ‘rescue’ quarter-horse from Alberni Valley house

Assault charge withdrawn vs. ex-Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna

Former Toronto player agrees to peace bond

UPDATED: Bill Cosby gets 3-10 years in prison for sexual assault

Judge also declared the disgraced comedian a ‘sexually violent predator’

B.C. making progress on senior care staffing, Adrian Dix says

Minister aims to meet residential care provincial standard by 2021

B.C. realtor receives racist letter touching on ‘empty homes’

The letter has been met with condemnation of the racism after Winnie Wu posted it online

WATCH: Rare close encounter with whale pod

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Most Read