Close to one million pink salmon fry were released into Nile Creek today (April 4) and will make their way to the ocean by nightfall.
The Nile Creek Enhancement Society acquired their annual batch of pink walmon eggs last November from the Quinsam River near Campbell River and raised them in tanks at the Nile Creek Hatchery until they matured enough to be released.
Hatchery president Jack Gillen said once the eggs hatch in the tanks, they are referred to as alevin and live from their yoke sac until late March or early April. At this time, they have matured into fry and are about 2.5 centimetres long.
The fry swim from their tanks, through a tube and into a trough where they are then transferred in plastic buckets to a bath tub. They then swim down another long plastic tube into Nile Creek.
“Within 24 hours they’re out in the ocean because they can’t eat in fresh water,” Gillen said. “On the way out they provide food for coho smolts that are in [Nile Creek].”
The salmon stay out in the ocean for about two years and will then return to Nile Creek to spawn. Only about one to one-and-a-half per cent of the salmon will return to spawn.
“One per cent is OK, 1.5 per cent is really good and anything above that is fantastic,” Gillen said.
Gillen said the reason for the low return count is because over the years fishing and commercial fishing has improved and seals, sea lions and other predators will eat a large portion of the fish.
Without the work of the hatchery, Gillen said, there would be no more fish coming back to the creek which would have a “great impact because there are hundreds of guys and gals that come and fly fish on the beaches.”