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Spawning salmon returns continue strong in Maple Ridge rivers

Alouette River and Kanaka Creek river groups report good numbers
Visitors take photos of a salmon at the Kanaka Creek fish fence. (KEEPS/Special to The News)

Salmon returns in Maple Ridge rivers has been strong this year, and local streamkeepers anticipate that forecast rains are going to allow for healthier spawning in the coming days.

“We’ve seen just over 12,000 chum, and they’re still coming,” said Sophie Sparrow, communications and engagement manager for the Alouette River Management Society. “They just keep coming, and hopefully with the rain, the river will rise a little more.”

Sparrow said the chum return has been one of the top three runs they have seen in recent years, and has now likely peaked.

They have also counted 220 chinook salmon, which is an impressive number of the big fish.

So far they have counted 275 coho salmon, but Sparrow said they expect to see more in the coming weeks.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge environmental group releases tips for salmon viewing

The fish fence has been down for a few days due to bear activity, and Sparrow said many fish would have swam through at that time, and numbers could be higher.

Considering all the factors with the weather, including a fall drought, ARMS is happy with the spawning they are seeing on the Alouette River. Rain will help to fill up the river’s smaller tributaries, where the tops of salmon are starting to be visible in the shallows.

The Alouette chum provide donor stock for other Metro Vancouver watersheds, and the ALLCO hatchery, where ARMS is based, has met its target of taking 500,000 chum eggs.

Some 25,000 chinook eggs have been taken for the hatchery, which is the target number from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This is only the third year this target has been reached with returning Chinook in the Alouette.

Kanaka Creek is also seeing strong returns, and Ross Davies, education coordinator for the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society (KEEPS), said the fish have been massing at the fish fence at 240th Street in numbers he hasn’t seen before.

“The numbers look good this year, for both chum and coho,” said Davies.

His rough estimates, based on observation and experience, are 2,000 to 3,000 chum, and 1,000 to 2,000 coho.

“It’s certainly enough to seed the system for the next generation,” said Davies.

They have also seen eight chinook at the fish fence this fall, which he said is the record for Kanaka Creek.

One would be considered a bit of a unicorn, and Davies said eight is unheard of, “a pleasant surprise,” and indicative of a good number of spawning chinook.

Pink salmon are not spawning this year.

• On Dec. 4, KEEPS is presenting Winter Wonders as one of its many education events at the Bell Irving Hatchery site, at 11450 256th St. It will run from noon until 3 p.m., and look at how creatures adapt to cold weather and winter.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge salmon group ARMS invites new members to join

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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