Chinook numbers down

While the coho salmon run is just getting started on the Salmon River, the chinook run is over.

While the coho salmon run is just getting started on the Salmon River, the chinook run is over.

And the results this year are disappointing.

Towards the end of October, Fisheries and Oceans Canada expected the South Thompson chinook run that includes Little Shuswap, Adams, Salmon and Eagle rivers to meet or exceed the brood year of 150,000 fish.

But volunteer Eugene Puetz, who operates a fish fence at his Silver Creek property, said only 188 chinook arrived at the fence this year, down from the 2011 brood year of 212.

“They did some sandbagging to channel the river and we had probably about 100 fish come up after they did that,” Puetz said of efforts by Fisheries and volunteers to deepen the channel to help the fish through extremely low water levels at the mouth of the river.

Puetz says the chinook run peaks between Sept. 10 and 15 and he heard the South Thompson run was good overall. (Fisheries officials were unavailable to confirm  numbers).

“It would have been nice if it had been us (with good numbers) instead of being down in our little river,” he says, noting the brood year was not very good and only the odd chinook had arrived at the fence since early October. “At least they managed to get brood stock so it’s not a total disaster.”

As of Monday, Puetz had counted 88 coho at  the fence, sufficient for Spius Hatchery to return to get adult coho pairs for brood stock.

The fry will go back into the Salmon River in several locations from Westwold down river next spring. The coho have a three-year life cycle, with only 150 arriving in the last brood year, says Puetz.

“Next year should be quite a bit better for coho,” he says. “It was one of the best we’ve ever had with more than 3,738 in 2013.”

Puetz says he believes next year’s chinook run could also be better, with somewhere between 500 to 800 having arrived in the 2012 brood run.

As well as high water temperatures and low water levels, Puetz thinks last year’s low snowpacks impacted this year’s salmon returns.