With a long hot summer predicted in the south island this year, we are alerting people to be on the lookout for stranded fish (young salmon or trout fry) in the smaller pools along the Tsolum River. With periodic rain events, followed by stretches of warm weather, water levels in creeks and rivers can fluctuate rapidly. Fish that hang out in shallow stream margins or side channels may find themselves stranded when water levels drop. If isolated ponds completely dry up, the fish perish. While stranded fish may provide food for other predators that reside near the river, large scale stranding can have an impact on the local population.
The Tsolum River Restoration Society is creating a database that will map key areas where fish stranding is a regular problem so that we can measure the scale of this impact on fry and smolts as well as pro-actively visit these areas when the conditions are risky for stranding. We can deploy a team of fish salvagers if you have an area where you see fish that need to be reunited with the main channel. Please let us know before you move fish since the temperature in the isolated pools might be different from the main channel; if fish are moved from one temperature to another without allowing for acclimatization, they may not survive. We can help to assess the site, provide equipment, and safely re-locate stranded fish. Please contact Caroline Heim, Outreach Coordinator by phone at 250.897.4670 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other News: One of our spring activities is to monitor the out-migration of fish from the Tsolum River by using a rotary screw trap that traps fry and smolts as they head down the river to the ocean. This year we estimated: more than 220,000 pink fry, approximately 32,000 chum fry, 2,500 coho smolts, 1,600 coho fry, and 600 steelhead/rainbow. These numbers are conservative, since the trap had to be temporarily pulled out of the river between April 7-17th due to high rains and flows, so fish out-migrating during that period were not counted.
This year we also set up counting fences in Portuguese Creek and Finlay Creek to help us to understand to what degree these smaller streams contribute to overall watershed productivity. Finlay Creek had 910 coho smolts live-captured between April 23 and May 20th. Portuguese Creek had 2,712 coho smolts, 224 coho fry, and 40 rainbow smolts. These high numbers indicate that these smaller tributaries are very productive and important overwintering, rearing, and spawning habitat. The fences were installed later than planned in both creeks due to high flows so actual numbers are likely higher than our monitoring indicates. Coho spend at least one year from the time they hatch in fresh water, and smaller tributaries are hugely important for their survival. Maintaining flows, and keeping temperatures cool over the summer is extremely important for their survival; landowners can do their part by maintaining tree buffers along the edges of streams and ditches, preserving wetland or wet areas, and limiting livestock from entering the stream channel and potentially polluting the water.
And please remember that the Tsolum River is closed to all fishing (including catch and release) while the salmon and trout stocks recover from over 40 years of acid mine drainage that leached from the abandoned copper mine near Mt. Washington into the Tsolum River. The mine site cover that was installed in 2010 resulted in immediate improvements to water quality, but the fish populations have not recovered to a level that can sustain fishing. Please respect and join our efforts to restore fish stocks and help the river recover. Refer to the Freshwater Fishing Regulations for up to date information on fishing opportunities in our area.Caroline Heim