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Warm waters blamed for disappearance of sockeye
followed by

Mad sockeye: Stray salmon slip upstream with steelhead

HERE for fish report page and fishermen articles

CTV.ca News Staff

In the few places on the B.C. coast where sockeye salmon fishing is allowed, boats are coming back to port empty or near-empty this summer, as the annual sockeye run has so far failed to materialize.

The Skeena sockeye run, initially forecast to be 1.2 million fish, has been about half that number. There are also low numbers on the Fraser and Nass Rivers.

On the Fraser River, 11 million salmon were predicted to return, but the peak last weekend saw about 100,000 fish.

Because of the crisis, the commercial fishery has yet to open and the native fishery has been restricted.

At Lions Gate Fishery in Ladner, on the Fraser River, workers are busy processing chum and frozen coho salmon, but sockeye production is less than 10 per cent of what it was this time last year.

Jack Waterfield, the owner of Lions Gate Fishery, says shoppers had better scratch sockeye off their menus. Vancouver-area grocery stores and fish markets won't have much in stock.

"We've been able to get some product out of Alaska, a little off the north coast," Waterfield says. "But outside of that, their shelves as bare as ours."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is blaming low returns on warmer ocean temperatures, which are two to five degrees higher than salmon are used to.

Fisheries manager Paul Ryall believes the salmon are late this year, and the sockeye salmon run could come next week.

With files from the Associated Press and CTV Vancouver's Shannon Patterson

Mad sockeye: Stray salmon slip upstream with steelhead
John Driscoll
Sockeye salmon have no business in the Mad River.

But there they’ve been, a pair of them, swimming just downstream of the bridge on Hatchery Road in Blue Lake. Bright red with green heads, they stand out, unlike their more camouflaged steelhead brothers.

The sighting was reported to the Times-Standard by conservation land consultant Rondal Snodgrass. But by Wednesday many had noticed or heard about the out-of-place fish and went to see them.

Sockeye are more typically found north of the Klamath River, and in the eastern Pacific are heaviest in Alaska.

”It’s rare,” said Humboldt State University fisheries professor Terry Roelofs. “It’s just an outrageous time of year, too.”

The fish may have run up the river with a slug of summer steelhead. They’ve been there at least a week. But why?

Roelofs said most likely they strayed from more northern populations, as salmon are prone to doing. He said it’s possible that the strange ocean conditions earlier this summer -- with a lack of upwelling due to weak northwest winds -- are in part responsible for the anomaly.

Sockeyes grow to about 8 pounds. They feed on plankton, unlike other salmon. Sockeye spawn in lakes above streams, and most migrate downriver to the ocean while others remain in fresh water.

Roelofs said another possibility is that landlocked sockeye -- called kokanee -- from Trinity Lake spawned and their young made it over Trinity Dam and eventually to the ocean, to return up a different river.

Sockeye in North Coast rivers isn’t unheard of, however. Roelofs said several years ago a class found sockeye in the Smith River, Redwood Creek and the Mad River. Others have reported seeing a handful in area rivers over the years.





Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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