By Eric Carlisle
As predicted, coho returns to south coast rivers and streams improved in 2007.  However, the outlook for 2008 is not good.                                                                       
At Capilano Hatchery, 876 earlies, 7,853 mids and 7,051 lates swam up the fish ladder.  The total adult coho return was 15,780.  Unfortunately, the jack coho return was a mere 94; the previous record low return of jacks was in excess of 300.   In 2007, the in-river fishery and the beach fisheries were noticeably improved over those of 2006.  But, while jack cohoes appeared in both fisheries in 2006, hardly any jacks were caught in 2007
While Seymour Hatchery staff have not made their final population estimate calculations, they have told me that the Seymour’s coho run was 4,000 to 5,000.  An average return is around 2,000 (like in 2005), and the 2006 return was only 1,450.  Like at Capilano, however, the numbers of jack cohoes found during seines at the Hatchery Pool were lower than usual.  I never saw any jacks while fishing the river last year or while participating in carcass recovery in late October, November or early December.
At Chilliwack Hatchery, the coho return was 14,696.  This compares with the 2006 return of 6,866 and the 2005 return of about 6,000.  However, the 2007 jack coho return was 611; in 2006, 1,445 jack cohoes returned to Chilliwack Hatchery.  Manager Bob Stanton said, “General synopsis for 2007 was fishing was relatively good for adult Coho and Chinook jacks, with what appeared to be an increase in trap returns and wild/tributary creek Coho.  There is a belief that Coho returns for Chilliwack and other Georgia Strait Coho stocks will be down.  How much I don’t know, but if you can go by Coho jack returns it could be significant.” 
Tenderfoot Hatchery’s Brian Klassen commented on the 2007 coho returns to the Squamish area.  Klassen said, “Coho returns in Squamish are still ongoing.  We saw an increase in coho this year over last year’s return although it was still not a stellar year.  I would have to say it was an ‘average’ return which is not bad but it was not as good as it was a few years ago.  The Cheakamus main river return was very poor but that was not unexpected as these were the returning fish from the Cheakamus CN Rail spill (2004 brood fish).  Jack returns are low.” 
A pattern is present here—improved adult coho returns in 2007, but low jack coho returns.  While low jack coho returns do not always mean low adult returns the following year (and good jack coho returns do not always mean good adult returns the following year), a correlation between jack coho returns and adult returns the following year is fairly common.  In the late summer of 2006, the Pacific Biological Station’s Dr. Dick Beamish performed his usual sampling in Georgia Strait, found improved numbers of coho juveniles, and predicted the improved return in 2007.  However, I have heard that Dr. Beamish’s juvenile coho sampling results in the late summer of 2007 were the worst he has seen.  Therefore, it would appear that the 2008 coho returns will be poor.

While obtaining the 2007 coho return information for this report, I also noticed that both Capilano and Chilliwack Hatcheries experienced very low returns of chinook “Jimmies”.  The stock in question is the so-called “Chilliwack Whites”, which originated at Harrison River, was transplanted to Chilliwack and then to Capilano.  Most years, this late returning stock has performed well at the two hatcheries.   The “Jimmies” are precociously maturing chinook males which left the river as smolts in the spring and returned in the fall at age one.  Each “Jimmy” is about the size of a modest jack coho.  I do not know if returns of four “Jimmies” to Capilano Hatchery and six “Jimmies” to Chilliwack Hatchery are significant, but they do seem to be much lower than usual.  In 2007, both hatcheries experienced adequate returns of chinook adults and good returns of chinook jacks.  In both rivers, significant numbers of chinook spawn in the river (especially in Chilliwack River) rather than returning to the hatchery.  In fact, I have been told that DFO has found that 20% of the fall returning chinook in the Chilliwack-Vedder is the result of chinook adults spawning in the river.