Tri-Cities’ salmon return by storm

Salmon have returned to the Tri-Cities’ by storm, literally.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) said returning fish were spotted at four locations in the Tri-Cities over the last week: Noons Creek, Hoy Creek, Oxbow channel off the Coquitlam River, and Hyde Creek.

At Noons Creek in Port Moody, dozens of coho salmon were seen directly in front of the hatchery on Friday.

“There’s about 60, 70 fish crammed in front of our hatchery right now,” said Dave Bennie, vice president of the Port Moody ecological society on Friday. “I bet there’s about 100 coho in the creek right now.

“We’ve got the creek just roaring right now, which is really good … There’s a whole pile of them, they’re still coming across the flats.”

Bennie said they were unsure if they would have any return this year. Before the rain began on Monday, Oct. 24, the creek was dry and he’d been watching salmon in the inlet waiting to come in.

“They can only sit out there for so long. Some of them had been out there for a month.”

The hatchery took 22 fish on Friday; last year only about 15 fish total returned to the hatchery.

Bennie said returns depend heavily on weather, and he suspects the “rampage” from last year’s atmospheric rivers tore up local salmon beds.

“We thought last year was going to be a good year and we got nothing,” he said. “We used to get a lot more fish back … We used to raise around 25,000 coho.”

The earliest he’s seen salmon return was mid August, and the latest just before Christmas.

Bennie said the dry conditions are a worrying sign, as coho need to spend a year in fresh water before they transition to the ocean.

“All these little streams are drying up that might have had coho fry in them, you could get a blue heron that walks up and they just clean up all these little fish because they have nowhere to go.”

The PSF has an interactive map with the best family friendly locations to go salmon spotting based on historical returns, along with information on what species you’ll most likely see.

“The opportunity to observe the journey and life cycle of Pacific salmon is nothing short of spectacular. We invite you to join us and witness the natural wonder,” said Michael Meneer, PSF president and CEO.

“Seeing salmon in our own communities emboldens us to take action and do everything in our power to care for this iconic species. We can come together as People for Salmon to make a difference.”

There are heavy rains and atmospheric rivers in the forecast, which can be devastating to salmon habitats, according to PSF.

They are watching the weather and will provide immediate fish rescue, habitat recovery, and hatchery repair support if needed.

Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch