The acoustic station at Mission records salmon as they make their way up the Fraser River to their spawning grounds. Anywhere from one to 1.6 million fish are holding in the Strait of Georgia, similar to a salmon run pattern that shifted in the mid-1990s, when fish began entering the river in early rather than mid-September. (Cory Lagasse, Pacific Salmon Commission)

Many admirers make their way to Shuswap’s Salute to the Sockeye

Close to a million late-run sockeye expected to return to Adams River in nature’s amazing spectacle

One of Mother’s Nature’s most amazing spectacles is playing out at Tsútswecw Provincial Park as close to three-quarters of a million late-run sockeye are expected to return to their Adams River spawning grounds over the next three weeks or so.

The numbers arriving this Thanksgiving weekend will not reach the peak, but there are more salmon arriving every day and the sight is well worth a visit to the Salute to the Sockeye Festival, which runs until Oct. 21.

Walk the trails along the Adams River to witness this special event. View the awesome spectacle of the spawning salmon and visit the artisan gallery, souvenir market and food concessions.

Related: Race is on for Shuswap late-run sockeye salmon

There will be demonstrations and face-painting for the younger set as well.

For those who would rather not drive, a special Salute to the Sockeye bus will leave from the Salmon Arm Rec Centre at 9 a.m. Oct. 6, 7 and 8. The schedule includes departures from Salmon Arm Chances Casino at 9:15 a.m., Pierre’s Point Log Building at 9:30, Sorrento Plaza at 9:45, Skylax Race Trac Gas Station, with arrival at Tsútswecw Park at 10:15.

The bus will leave the park for the return trip at 2 p.m. For more information, call Natalya at 778-929-5396 or email eventmanager@salmonsociety.com.

In the meantime, fisheries officials got a happy surprise this week.

A six-day test fishery that concluded on Monday, Oct. 1 observed that between one to 1.6 million salmon are still holding in the Strait of Georgia.

Given that it takes anywhere from 10 to 14 days for the salmon to travel to their Adams River spawning grounds, there are likely to be fewer fish to view than expected at the Salute to the Sockeye festival at Tsútswecw Provincial Park (formerly Robert Haig-Brown Park) this weekend.

Related: Strong sockeye salmon run no excuse for inaction

Pacific Salmon Commission chief biologist Mike Lapointe says he attended what was supposed to be a post-season meeting regarding salmon returns on Sept. 26 where someone suggested one more test fishery be done, just to be sure.

“Holy cow! What are they doing there?” laughs Lapointe of the “very significant” number of fish that seem to be holding in the strait. “We probably had about 150,000 to 160,000 coming up in October; the last time there was a significant migration (in October) like that was 1994.”

The acoustic monitoring system at Mission, which has been extended because of the latest survey results, recorded 90,000 salmon passing by on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Lapointe says the salmon’s arrival off the B.C. Coast on the 19th to 20th of August was not unusual.

“What’s unusual is they’re delaying their upstream migration; a significant number are reverting to old patterns, which is awesome news for the fish,” says Lapointe, who was the lead biologist in the 1990s trying to figure out why the late-run sockeye suddenly began entering the Fraser River two weeks earlier than what had been the norm. “We never did figure out why that was and I doubt we’ll ever figure this out either.”

He points out that conditions in the Fraser River are now perfect for returning salmon.

Lapointe says 4.4 million salmon returning to the Shuswap have already been accounted for and, depending on how many fish are still in the Strait of Georgia, the overall Shuswap late run – which includes the Adams River and several other spawning grounds – could be as big as six million, with five million being the minimum.

As to how many late-run sockeye will arrive at their Adams River spawning grounds, Lapointe believes it will be close to the 750,000 of the 2014 brood year as previously forecast.

Another survey in the strait is underway now and results will be available early next week.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

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This acoustic station at Mission counts fish as they head upstream on the Fraser River. the count on Thursday, Oct. 4 was 90,000. (Cory Lagasse, Pacific Salmon Commission)

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