The installation of the fish fence is a landmark annual event for a Maple Ridge conservation society.
“It kicks off a really busy fall season,” said Ross Davies of the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership (KEEPS).
He explained the fish fence, which was installed in Kanaka Creek at 240th Street on Oct. 1, serves three purposes.
Firstly, containing the salmon provides an estimate of the strength of a salmon spawning run. It doesn’t keep them fenced in indefinitely, because fish are able to swim over the fence when a storm event raises the water level.
Pink salmon generally number in the hundreds, but the run is starting to respond to efforts to rebuild it.
Chum salmon coming up the creek number in the 3,000 to 8,000 range. This is the dominant species on the south coast, said Davies. Chum are late this year, and showing up in small numbers. However, the run will typically peak at about Halloween, and he will then be able to estimate the strength of the run.
Coho salmon come later, in November and December, in numbers ranging from 500 to 5,000.
A second benefit to the fish fence is it allows KEEPS to obtain brood stock for the Bell-Irving Hatchery. At the hatchery eggs are taken from the females, and milt from the males to fertilize the eggs. The fish are killed in the process, but are returned to the river.
“Their journey is not over – they provide food for just about everything,” said Davies, who is the education coordinator for KEEPS.
Thirdly, the fish fence allows salmon to be studied, and for the community to come out and see them.
“It’s pretty darn cool” to have spawning salmon so easy to view, so school classes and others from the community can come and learn about the salmon life cycle, said Davies.
“It attracts more attention than a brass band.”
It also attracts bears. Davies asks people to keep their dogs on a leash when visiting the site off 240th Street, and to be wary. There are nine bears that are known to visit the site. People should move back from the site when they arrive, and wait for the bears to leave.
On Oct. 20 there will be a Return of the Salmon annual event on Kanaka Creek at the 240th Street fish fence from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., for people to see spawning salmon. Admission is free to this family event. For more information, call 604-970-8404.