On Sunday, Oct. 21 I opted to spend the day visiting some of the activities related to hunting and fishing that were going on in the Valley. It was a rich, rewarding experience to witness families, seniors, and a broad cross section of people taking part in the day’s outings. There is no place for couch potatoes in these activities.
My first stop was the Gun Show at the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association clubhouse. When I arrived my first surprise was the large number of cars parked in the grounds. I came early and the show was already overflowing with attendees.
The Gun Show is much more than a gun show – it takes on the aspects of a crowded bazaar with traders offering all manner of outdoor stuff from guns, bows and arrows and associated materials to fly fishing displays, special tools and numerous types of knives. The club kitchen provides pancake breakfasts and lunches throughout the show. It is a family affair where buyers are haggling with sellers to get the best deal possible – good stuff.
From the Gun Show I travelled down the river to the annual Rivers Day celebration at the Puntledge Hatchery. Again I was pleasantly impressed by the large turn out – especially young families and seniors. I along with hundreds of others had to park my truck well up on Powerhouse Road and walk down to the hatchery. Along the way I was joined by families with many small children who were taking the hike up and down the hill to the hatchery as part of the day’s events. Somebody remarked the trip up the hill was longer than going down; but nobody was complaining.
The staff at the hatchery gave graphic illustrations of their work such as coded wire marking of fish while other members took you on a guided tour of what they do. You get to see first hand the sorting of fish by species and readiness to spawn. Today they were working with Puntledge River fall chinook while the coho and chum salmon were segregated for future spawning.
The entire process of stripping females and fertilizing the eggs takes place during the day. There are no phony signs suggesting that this process may not be suitable for all viewers. It is a reality show of the vital link hatcheries perform in the on-going challenges of maintaining healthy salmon runs in our rivers.
Little children could paint a pink salmon with wet paint, press a suitable piece of paper on the fish and peel off a coloured print of their own creation. When they leave the site they take their dried painting home. There were also group displays by various enhancement groups and the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy, which offered their beautiful 2013 Comox Valley Conservation Calendar for sale. It is striking beautiful series of pictures of the many conservation projects throughout the Comox Valley and would make a wonderful gift for anybody on your Christmas list (cost $15). An added highlight of the visit was the large number of coho in the viewing room.
From the hatchery I journeyed down river to the Condensory Bridge to see what was happening with the in-river chum salmon fishing. The picture with this column illustrates the spectacular fishing that is taking place below the bridge and along the river to the bend. I found it interesting that the fishers immediately below the bridge on the lower side were all teenagers – five boys and one girl.
When I took the picture five of them where playing fish and the one boy was cleaning a fresh bright chum salmon. As I looked into the waters below the bridge I saw the largest concentration of fish I have ever seen at this location. For the young anglers who all had good casting skills it was like fishing in a barrel. Above and below the bridge I counted about 40 anglers and up and down the river they were busy trying to land chum salmon. Most were released back into the river, but a significant number of fresh fish were being kept to take home. In spite of a two-week delay, the river was more than generous in its gifting of chum salmon.
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.