Near record number of salmon return to Surrey waters in 2013

SURREY — Surrey waters welcomed home a larger than average number of returning salmon in 2013, according to the environmental groups that operate hatcheries on the Little Campbell and Serpentine rivers.

In South Surrey, the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club was thrilled to see near record numbers of returning fish. It was the second best run since monitoring began in 1983, and fell just shy of the numbers recorded in 2001.

More than 5,500 salmon were checked at the hatchery counting fence before being released upstream to spawn. The count included 4,702 coho, 574 chinook, 252 chum and 22 pink salmon. The total does not include salmon that spawned in the river downstream from the hatchery or in the downstream tributaries such as Fergus Creek.

"The rains in the fall came later than normal and that’s what the fish wait for before heading up the river," said club president Bob Donnelly. "The coho were pretty much on schedule and they were pretty steady. As a matter of fact, we had 20 or so come up last weekend (Jan. 11 and 12) when the rains were so heavy and that’s pretty unusual because they’re usually done by now. We’re starting to get our first steelhead coming up now and that’s right on schedule.

"The strange thing is we also had 22 pinks come up the river. That’s very unusual because the Little Campbell is not a spawning river for them. The pink run on the coast was good this year and we suspect a few of them just wandered into the river. The other possibility is we had a spawning pair come up the river a few years ago and these could be the returns from that pair."

Meanwhile in North Surrey, it was a good news, bad news scenario for the Serpentine Enhancement Society’s Tynehead Hatchery.

On the plus side, the numbers of returning salmon were strong overall in 2013. The chinook numbers were down marginally, but the coho run was excellent.That good news was tempered by damage wrought by heavy storms that battered the Lower Mainland on the weekend of Jan. 3 to 5. The deluge of water created flood conditions in the Serpentine and SES volunteers fear the worst.

"Sadly, the heavy storms we just had did a lot of damage to the spawning beds," said Carol Wright, SES director of fish culture. "A lot of water hit the river and it ended up ripping up the spawning beds and dislodging the eggs. There’s been a huge loss of eggs and that’s very worrying for the future. With more pavement and development and storm drains moving water into the river, there is more flash flooding that tears up the riverbed. Every year the damage is greater and greater."

mbooth@thenownewspaper.com

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