First Nations and sport fishermen working hand-in-hand isn’t common, but it’s not unknown on the Peninsula. The Tsawout and Sidney Anglers are returning to old ways, working together on a net pen project in Central Saanich with the hopes of replenishing depleted coho salmon in the Salish Sea.
“These two organizations can work together to enhance these local fish stocks for future generations,” said Dan Claxton, Tsawout Fisheries manager.
He and Sidney Anglers president Brian Dunic agree that working together is an important step in “building relationships.” In the end local First Nations, the ecosystem and sport fishermen will all benefit.
“As sport fishermen we want to see the fish return,” Dunic said. “The public will see fish in the creeks and be more respectful to take care of the fish.”
About 8,000 coho smolts provided by the Goldstream volunteer hatchery jump and flit about in a pen off the wharf at the end of James Island Road.
All 8,000 are clipped for identification once caught.
“These coho, they’re bigger than normal, they’re 18 months. These fish are going to return in the fall of 2013,” Claxton said.
“They’ll imprint with that fresh water from Tetayut Creek and know where to come back,” he added, gesturing south.
The two groups worked together to put the pen in May 18, the smolts May 19 and they’ll feed them as long as the smolts stay. A number of factors, including the condition of the pen, will impact the release date, but Claxton and Dunic hope for two to three weeks of growth.
“Longer if we can. The bigger we can grow them, the higher the success rate,” Claxton said.
While other salmon stocks have been raised in pens at the James Island Road wharf, it’s a first for the coho.
“The net pen for coho has never been done in B.C. before. It’s been done in Alaska and Oregon and they’ve had a good success rate,” Claxton said.
If things work out well this year, they plan to expand next year.
“We want to expand it. One here and one in Sidney,” Dunic said, motioning toward the nearest source of fresh water, Reay Creek to the north.
Claxton hopes to see up to 40,000 smolts introduced next year.
Slack Tide cleans up
Around 175 anglers landed about 60 fish to raise close to $7,500 for salmon enhancement in the annual Sidney Anglers Salmon Derby this year.
The two-day event included a fishers’ meet and greet on April 27, and the derby and dinner on April 28. The winning fish was caught by Team Slack Tide. The winning fishers were Chase Mollberg, Lucas Mollberg and Kory Howard.
The anglers have already begun planning for next year’s derby to raise funds for salmon and habitat enhancement projects on lower Vancouver Island to benefit the salmon fishing community and the environmental health of the entire south Island.