Sockeye salmon spawning in the Quesnel/Horsefly River watershed.

Sockeye salmon spawning in the Quesnel/Horsefly River watershed.

Sockeye run remains below expectations

As the Quesnel/Horsefly sockeye run reaches its peak, it is apparent the numbers continue to be low.

As the Quesnel/Horsefly sockeye run reaches its peak, it is apparent the numbers continue to be low.

“We’re nearing the peak and this particular year is one of the low-cycle return years for Quesnel Sockeye,” Fisheries and Oceans Canada acting regional director Les Jantz says. “They are primarily four-year-old fish and it follows what is termed a cyclical pattern.

“It has one very large return year, which is next year’s cycle year, that is followed by a subdominant return year, and then two off-cycle return years. This year is one of those and 2015 will be the next off-cycle year return.”

Jantz explains that in the past dominant cycle years, the largest return has been in the order of 12 million fish. In the off-cycle one of the largest returns witnessed was 270,000 sockeye. That was in 2004.

“If you go back in time, on this cycle there were a number of years when they were in the hundreds to low thousands in the 70s and 80s.”

The Quesnel/Horsefly sockeye were forecast pre-season to be a fairly low return, which is being proven as the stock assessment is showing very low numbers.

“We don’t have a number. We’re still in the process of doing our escapement surveys. Generally the timing of the preliminary escape estimate is ready early to late November. It depends on how many systems we have marked for capture programs.”

Early estimates for the Fraser Sockeye return in total is around 2.3 million fish.

“That’s a fairly low return for Fraser Sockeye in total. We did have a number of First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries, but  there were no commercial or recreational fisheries in Canada directed on these fish this year.”

Jantz doesn’t have the catch statistics around the First Nations fisheries, but says the numbers were definitely down compared to what would be seen in a stronger return year.

“The harvest was below what we would normally like to see for First Nations,” he adds.

Northern Shuswap Tribal Council fisheries resource manager Gord Sterritt says the sockeye run is over. “There could be a few stragglers coming in, but we haven’t seen many in the Quesnel and Horsefly system this year at all.”

Sterrit says food fishing wasn’t great, but a lot of it was reli.ant on the Chilko stock and catching those at Farwell Canyon.

“Some of the upper Fraser stock weren’t doing too bad so the fish that were caught in the main Fraser would have been from those stocks.

“If we were to rely on the Quesnel and Horsefly this year, we definitely wouldn’t have caught many fish. We knew it was a low run this year, but not this bad.”

There are very few fish on the spawning grounds, he adds.

“We were doing enumeration in the creeks and we didn’t observe sockeye.

“We’re also doing Chinook surveys in the Horsefly and we saw very few sockeye spawning and actually some pre-spawning mortalities.”

It’s a huge concern, he says.

“The Quesnel run has been declining for a number of years and it’s pretty much a disaster.”

Sterritt has worked for NSTC since 2005 as the fisheries resource manager.

Last week Sterritt and his staff were installing fencing in McKinley Creek to begin Coho counts that will continue until December.

“Every year we enumerate Coho as they migrate into the creek. We take measurements, record the health of the fish, and the number of fish that come into the system,” he says.

McKinley is essentially an indicator stock for Coho for the interior Fraser River population, upstream of the Thompson River.

“It allows us to determine how the run is doing. It provides information where the stocks are above the Thompson, and what’s coming back into the upper Fraser.”

Coho are the last to run and won’t be showing up significantly yet; however, the fences go in early so none are missed if they do show up early.

“Usually through the middle of October until the middle of November we’re enumerating Coho coming through the fence until there are no more showing up. We also do stream walks, over flights in the different systems within the Quesnel that aren’t connected to the McKinley,” Sterritt says.

The stats are used for the Pacific Salmon Commission to help determine what’s happening in the watershed.

Sterritt says Chinook salmon numbers are also down not only in this area, but in the whole upper Fraser and Kamloops Lake area.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A detour via Mission Road is in place Sunday, Feb. 28 due to a vehicle incident. (Anna Fait photo)
Highway 97 closed south of Williams Lake Sunday morning, detour in place

Overnight, Williams Lake saw six centimetres of snowfall, according to Environment Canada

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.
FOREST INK: New batteries close to industrial level applications

The good news is the hope that this cost should come down each year

Researchers in B.C. say earlier than usual return of bats or dead bats can indicate trouble, such as signs of white-nose syndrome. (Cathy Koot photo)
Public help is essential for monitoring for bat disease

Anyone finding a dead bat is asked to report it to the BC Community Bat Program

Sandi Griffiths is the region’s new district manager of transportation for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
New MOTI district manager takes the wheel in Williams Lake

Sandi Griffiths replaces Todd Hubner who retired recently

Mclean Silverton rides a rail in Boitanio Park - one of seven new features installed by the city this past week. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Snow park in Boitanio open for riding

If any users find that the park requires attention, please contact city hall at 250-392-2311

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read