Wayne Jackaman has seen thousands of chum, chinook, and coho salmon make their way through the Sooke River and surrounding creeks, but he’s always amazed by how many obstacles they overcome during their annual salmon run.
“It’s exciting to see the way they battle up these little creeks,” said Jackaman, acting director for Juan de Fuca Salmon Restoration Society, which operates the Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre.
“You can see the marks on their bodies that signify the battle it took to get back to spawn. Watching the females build their nests and the males fighting off other fish is magical, to a certain extent.”
Not only do fish have to be wary of regular predators such as orcas and seals before they make their way back to spawn around four years later, but they also have to deal with recreational anglers, fluctuating water quality due to pollution and habitat loss.
As a volunteer with the group for the past two years, Jackaman said many fish have already begun the spawning process this year.
Many salmon have travelled thousands of kilometres over their four-year lifespan to return to the same waters they were born in. Salmon are known to have magnetite in their bodies, which gives them the ability to feel magnetic north and have a successful migration. The process is set to carry on throughout the Sooke River until mid to late November.
Bill Pedneault runs the Sooke River Jack Brooks Hatchery, just a stone’s throw away from Jackaman’s hatchery. In August, the organization received $920,000 in provincial and federal funds to upgrade equipment, reduce power consumption and increase community engagement to protect wild salmon.
The volunteer hatchery manager pointed out that the number of chinook salmon are coming in strong, while coho are noticeably down from the last three years.
Notably, coho and chum are still “only about a quarter of the way through their final stretch,” Pedneault said.
Those interested in watching the salmon run can head over to the Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre, located at 2895 Sooke River Rd. Though the centre is closed this year due to the pandemic, the trails are still open with public information signs.
“It’s all dependent on the water level in the creeks and rivers,” said Jackaman. “When those rainfalls come, it gives enough room for chinook, chum and coho to squeeze their way up back to their spawning grounds and restart the cycle.”
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