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General News · 29th November 2018
Christine & Cec Robinson
This year feels like a bumper crop of chum after the poor spawner returns for 2017. All the salmon-bearing creeks on Cortes have seen chum returning through October & November, with the exception of Manson’s Lagoon Creek.

Remember that migration of salmon out to sea and back again has unsolved mysteries as to exactly where they go and when they return to their natal streams. Chum, typically, have a 3 – 4 year return cycle, but it can also be 5 years. Cortes Streamkeepers began actively monitoring spawner returns in 2013, so in the next 3-4 years, we will have a more accurate understanding of the salmon returns to Cortes creeks.
Counting spawners in the creeks is a lively, sometimes wet endeavor with a reasonable degree of accuracy, but these numbers are still approximate.

Basil Creek (into Squirrel Cove) – had close to 2000 chum in 2016, our biggest year amongst many, whereas this year we counted about 350 live & dead chum.

Hansen Creek (into Gorge Harbour along the Gorge hill) - had about 300 + in 2016, and this year, we counted about 130 live & dead.

James Creek (into Carrington Lagoon) - had 217 in 2016, and this year about 44 live & dead chum.

Whaletown Creek (into Whaletown Lagoon) has been difficult to monitor, and the old culvert under the main road presented an insurmountable fish barrier. However, the new open bottom arch culvert installed in 2017 is fish-friendly, and the exciting
news is that 3 chum were seen above the road for the first time in fifty years!!!

Manson’s Lagoon Creek (into the head of the lagoon) - has had very low returns in recent years, with perhaps 10 fish being counted annually, except for 2016 with about 75 chum counted at the base of the falls. No fish this year.

Chris’ Lagoon, more recently known as Sprungman’s Pond, hasn’t shown a salmon run in years until 2016, when 100 chum showed up. So no one really knows where they came from, and we wonder will there be significant numbers in 2020? No fish this year.

Frabjes Day Creek (into Cortes Bay) had an estimated 40 salmon active at the mouth of the creek. They may have been spawning intertidally, as chum sometimes do, as may be happening in Whaletown and Carrington Lagoons.

Thanks to all the salmon counters of this fall – Chris Napper & Leona Jensen, Chris & Debbie Dragseth, Mike Manson, Deb & Rick Kolstad, Elizabeth Anderson, Max Thayson, Cec & Christine Robinson, Gavin Livingston, and especially to our youth counters, Makawi & Naio, who have been helping at James Creek.

Community watchers contributed interesting observations which are being added to the increasing information we are collecting for Cortes creeks.

Some of the other exciting projects undertaken by FOCI Streamkeepers are:
In collaboration with Klahoose and Department of Fisheries & Oceans, 40,000 chum eggs (instead of coho) were raised at the Klahoose Hatchery and released into Basil Creek in April. The hope is that chum is a more suitable species for Cortes creeks given climate change and lower summer water levels.
In-stream incubation of chum eggs is beginning with the expectation that the fry hatching from these eggs directly into a creek will have a stronger imprinting on their creek than hatchery fry. Ultimately, this should lead to greater spawner returns.

FOCI sponsored a second youth streamkeeper workshop in May. This year, we used James Creek to add to our stream data, with the youth floundering around in their oversized hip waders and taking vital measurements.

There were a couple of tours for school children and home-schoolers to the Klahoose hatchery, and the long-standing ‘Salmonids in the Classroom’ took place with the Cortes School primary class raising coho fry that were released into Hansen Creek in May.

Streamkeepers received a grant from the Forestry Coop to erect signage at the major creeks with traditional Klahoose names, so we hope to see progress over the winter for this.

And for the time being, the rainy winter months will be a time of revitalization for creeks and quiet for cutthroat and developing salmon eggs.