A record number of coho salmon have been spotted this year returning to Salt Spring Island’s Fulford Creek, according to volunteer counters.
Island Stream and Salmon Enhancement Society (ISSES) biologist Kathy Reimer said the group has counted nearly 100 spawning coho along the length of the stream — the most ever, she said, and a happy result given reports from other salmon counts in British Columbia this year.
“Goldstream Hatchery were quite worried,” said Reimer, adding that officials at Vancouver Island’s Goldstream River had seen just 98 coho on their initial count this year, a fraction of the number tallied at the same time in 2022. “I mean, they’ve got 10 times the creek we have.”
The record return of both of adult fish and the “jacks” — the smaller salmon that have matured earlier and return to their home streams before the more typical three-year schedule — were the follow-on result of a high return of 55 fish the group recorded in 2019.
“We feel that the reason Fulford Creek has a stable population of fish is that almost all the landowners along the creek are taking good care of the stream,” said Reimer, “and many have helped as volunteers.”
Fulford Creek is the largest fish-bearing stream in the southern Gulf Islands and one of just 15 “sensitive” streams listed by the provincial government — a designation meant to protect fish populations at risk from damage to the stream’s aquatic ecosystem.
That means residents and visitors need to take extra care near Salt Spring’s small streams; Reimer said it’s a good idea to be mindful year-round, but especially in the spring after the eggs hatch and the salmon are particularly vulnerable.
“The eggs are pretty resilient,” said Reimer. “But the little alevins — that have the little bubble of the egg hooked to a fish-like body — they’re easily killed by squishing.”
Reimer promised an update when final counts for all the island’s salmon streams — including Cusheon and Duck creeks — are completed. ISSES plans to take a few eggs for the hatchery at Cusheon, Reimer said, letting the rest spawn naturally.