A chum is seen in the front and a chinook in the back at the Puntledge River Hatchery.

Families enjoy gun show, hatchery open house


It was like repeating history. Well not exactly, but close enough.

It was two years ago on Oct. 21, 2012 that I attended the Gun Show and the Puntledge River Hatchery Open House on the same day. This year I repeated the same agenda on Sunday, Oct. 19. They are both family oriented events that attract a goodly number of families with children of all ages and a cross-section of folks in the Valley and our guests.

I am not certain if there is any planning that puts them on the same day, but it is a good way to spend a family day and I recommend it for 2015 next October.

This year was wet, as in serious showers throughout the day. I suspect this made the gun show more attractive because it took place in the main hall of the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protection Association clubhouse. It also had the added feature of pancake breakfasts and super hamburgers for lunch.

The gun show is an exciting bazaar that has all the qualities of wheeling and dealing for the best buy you can get for whatever it is that interests you from a wide selection of guns, ammunition, binoculars, knives, trout flies, simple tools and other treasures for outdoor folks.

I made several trips through the maze of tables covered with the wares that a particular dealer was offering the public. I enjoyed listening to the hard bargaining that went on between the prospective buyer and seller.

It is good natured, serious and in many respects quite entertaining as you watched the bargaining in process. Make no mistake, there is a lot of money that changes hands in this timeless contest between seller and buyer.

For my part I got off pretty cheap with some simple tools for fishing. The gun show is a rare look into the positive culture of people who own guns and use them in responsible ways – part of being a hunter, shooter or outdoor person in our great outdoors.

For phase two of my repeat of history I followed the Puntledge River downstream to the Open House at the Puntledge Hatchery.

First off a “Tip of the hat and a Thank-you” to the staff of the hatchery that go to great efforts to tell the story of the hatchery and its place in the ongoing challenges of keeping our precious wild salmon runs alive.

This year the hatchery  holding ponds were full of Puntledge River fall chinook, and fresh runs of chum and coho that had just come in from the rising river due to the timely rains of the past few days. A few pinks and spawned out chinook salmon were waiting to die and return to the river in their final gift to the cycle of life.

In a society that is increasingly removed from the reality of life systems, this day at the hatchery is a realistic glimpse into the life cycles of our local salmon populations that have survived the challenges of a changing ocean.

The work of sorting, selecting and preparing the fall chinook salmon for stripping the eggs from ripe females and fertilizing them with ripe sperm from males is one of the most graphic, life creating acts, I have ever witnessed.

It is a real-life event that vividly illustrates the process of fertilization of eggs and sperm to create new life. True, it is not in the gravel beds of the river that this is currently happening, but it is a life-renewing process that supplements wild systems that have been compromised by our modern world.

For families with children it is a real-world event that does much in telling the story of the creation of life.

As we witnessed the events at the hatchery I could not help but speculate how nature travels at its own pace. The chum salmon have not yet appeared at Browns Bay in Johnstone Straits as they were expected, although we have good numbers in our river for recreational fishing, as of this writing.

The coho on the other hand have been off our beaches and in the bay at Royston for some time, waiting to enter the river.

It is normally a great opportunity for beach anglers to do well, but so far this season the fish have not been willing to bite on offerings from dedicated anglers.

“Well they say our sport is about fishing, but not always catching.”

Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.


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