Sunday was open house at the Puntledge River Hatchery run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I was late getting there, but the crowds were still arriving.
The count of people attending this spectacular event at about 1:30 p.m. was estimated at close to 800. It is one of the best nature shows that you will you will find on Vancouver Island. The staff does a superb job of taking people on guided walks through the hatchery and all of its parts.
Small children get to paint a salmon as a souvenir of the day.
The process of taking eggs from chinook salmon and fertilizing them for future salmon is done with simplicity and respect for the life that comes to a close. The creation of new life with the fertilization of the eggs from the female with the sperm taken from a male is a classic example of the beginning of new life without the confusing side issues of “birds and bees” in long-winded lessons on sex. While it is not quite the same as watching the chinook salmon spawn in the river, it is still an excellent illustration of the creation of new chinook salmon as done in the security of the hatchery.
During the open house one of the high points for me is the viewing room, as you get to see large numbers of salmon that are close-up and unaware of your presence. This year there was a good selection of salmon currently in the river as illustrated by the photograph. The ones with the white mould and dark strips on a dark green body are well-advanced chums. The fall chinook are quite dark with prominent spots and white mould on the mature fish while the bright fish are usually coho.
There is something surreal about watching these magnificent fish as they swim past your window in complete silence and without threat. One of the best times to visit the viewing room is on a day when there are few people around. While hatcheries are a man-made facility to help stressed salmon populations, they are still wonderful places to spend time in observing fish and their life-creating processes.
A tip of the hat to the staff of the Puntledge Hatchery on a job well done during a time of serious downsizing at DFO. It was also informative and encouraging to visit the Puntledge River Restoration booth and the Tsolum River display and booth – good work.
As a natural follow-up from time at the hatchery you might enjoy the wide-screen-TV-like view from the Condensory Bridge in downtown Courtenay.
As part of my annual Puntledge River pilgrimage I spend time on the bridge watching the show below. On election day in the morning I counted 18 anglers busy fly casting or lure casting for salmon in the river.
At any given time there will be up to half a dozen anglers playing fish at the same time. Most of the fish are currently released because they are past their prime or the season is not open on them. We are fortunate to have this wonderful fishing treasure in our community.
Congratulations to the newly elected Liberal Government in Ottawa. You campaigned on concern for the environment and addressing climate change challenges. Let us hope the blood-letting in DFO will stop and science will receive the respect it deserves in a modern society.
It will be encouraging to see Canada take its role seriously in the coming climate change and global warming meetings at the United Nations in December.
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.