The chinook smolts from the Quinsam Hatchery were transferred today to the grow-out pen in the Campbell River Discovery Harbour Marina. We, the Campbell River Guides Association, contribute to this aspect of salmon enhancement by providing the pen and bringing volunteers for transfer day and about twenty days of feeding, helped as well by other community volunteers. There are also a couple of other pens in different locations with sponsors and volunteers.
Hatcheries keep the young fish through the first fresh water stream part of their lives , and then, when they are ready to migrate, and change their equilibrium to live in salt water, they are called smolts. At this point they would normally be let loose into the natural stream and they'd swim down to the estuary and the sea, running a gauntlet of predators while their bodies are stressed.. It turns out that helping them though this vulnerable period by protecting and feeding them a while in a net pen increases their survival rate.
On this day we volunteers were needed to carry and drag the hose a very long way from the tank truck to the net pen. And at the end, to get the hose back on to the truck.
When the little salmon were flowing through the pipe I noticed that they face upstream, as they would in the river, while travelling backwards. I mentioned this to Bryan from the hatchery and learned that this delivery is a gentle gravity flow, but in some other deliveries the speed and pressure is too great and can damage the gills as they hit the sea backwards. In those situations they aim the pipe upward so that the little fish can do a cat-like spin in the air and dive in head first.
The new arrivals to the pen were olive in colour, but they turned to a darker blue-black in a short time to camouflage in their new surroundings.
The Quinsam is a tributary of the Campbell River. A fraction of these little salmon will survive to return to the river . They'll come back at different ages, mostly 3 or 4 years, but some 5 and possibly 6. The big ones, over 30 pounds, will be some of the famous Campbell River Tyees. Swim little salmon, grow big and strong, and we'll hope to see you again on the return trip.
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