Fall is a vibrant time of the wild answering to deep callings: snow geese overhead and spawning salmon preparing for their final journey and task. There has been eager anticipation of chum numbers in Cortes creeks for this year, based on the strong showing in 2016.
This is especially encouraging because the previous couple of years had disappointing numbers.
The intermediate class from the Cortes School had an exciting and productive field trip to Basil Creek to watch the chum that began to come into the creek on October 17. These youth streamkeepers were tasked to make some quantitative observations of the spawning salmon in the lower segment of the creek and in the bay. You will note that there are some wildly differing counts from the four groups, but all were accepted as valid.
• live fish – numbers between 80 and 286
• dead – numbers between 8 and 28
• predators – numbers between 12 and 40 (They counted every raven & crow!)
• one group rose to the challenge of tallying 110 females & 87 males
One streamkeeper suggested that the students could be paid 10 cents a fish and see what happens to the count numbers.
More importantly, Cortes youth continue to stay engaged and excited about wild salmon stocks. FOCI Streamkeepers are especially grateful to the landowners adjoining Basil Creek below the main road for their strong support of salmon enhancement and community. Please be respectful of private property when viewing salmon and see below for specific information on public access.
For the sake of these salmon, please be mindful of your presence when watching spawning salmon in Cortes creeks, and follow some simple guidelines:
• no walking in the creek; that means enthusiastic children of all ages!
• keep dogs on leashes and out of the creek, but best if dogs are left at home
• approach salmon quietly & slowly; it’s hard not to point enthusiastically, but this gesture often scares them
• approach from downstream (that way, if you startle the salmon, they will swim upstream rather than downstream where they came from)
• be respectful of private property
There are two public viewing places for Basil Creek, and we ask that you stay off their private property. The public can easily observe salmon at the mouth of the creek where it empties into Squirrel Cove, and at the public trail below the restored open-bottom arch where the salmon enhancement educational signage is erected. Chum are often seen pooling just below the arch, so move carefully, please.
The other salmon-bearing creeks on Cortes are James Creek running through the Children’s Forest emptying into Carrington Lagoon, Hansen Creek running along the Gorge Hill emptying into the Gorge Harbour, and Whaletown Creek emptying into Whaletown Lagoon. James Creek is the most accessible to public and has the bonus of an energizing forest walk through the Children’s Forest. Unfortunately, the lower reaches of Hansen and Whaletown Creeks run through private property with no public access.
Community eyes & ears are most helpful for FOCI Streamkeepers who continue to monitor and count spawners from mid-October through November. The usual first signs of spawners preparing to move upstream are:
• fish rising to the surface in the bays adjoining major creeks
• presence of sea lions and seals tracking the salmon
• an increase of seagull and eagle activity in the area
Please remember these important pointers for salmon and stream etiquette!
And enjoy the viewing!!
— Christine Robinson