Steelhead Society of British Columbia Roundtable Report, November, 2016
By Eric Carlisle
At the June Directors’ meeting, Northern Branch Chair Troy Peters reported that permits were in place for trapping juvenile fish in Exstew Slough. However, due to a low snowpack, for the first time in 40 years the Skeena did not flood and there was no need to trap fish at that location. Some trapping would be done along Copper River. In July, Peters reported that a test fishery was done in Exstew Slough; only salamanders were found. He needed to apply for a salamander transfer permit. As usual, Peters had been involved with the battle against DFO’s excessive commercial openings on the Skeena. Peters feels the Tyee Test Fishery results overestimate the numbers of steelhead.
Concerning the Thomson River steelhead situation, the SSBC did not join other organizations (BCFDF, BCFFF, BCWF) in signing a letter to Minister Steve Thomson calling for an angling closure on the Thompson during the steelhead season. This letter said that such a closure would be acceptable only if the interception fisheries (commercial and native) were curtailed. The SSBC directors felt angling effects were negligible and a closure is not the way to go. The SSBC wrote its own letter to Thomson re the commercial openings which impact Thompson steelhead. However, the SSBC did join the other three organizations in signing a letter to DFO protesting chum fisheries which coincide with Thompson steelhead migration (e.g., Nitnat, lower Fraser). A large part of the problem is hatchery production of chum. This hatchery production has changed chum run timing so the chum arrive earlier instead of after Thompson steelhead have moved through the Nitnat area and lower Fraser.
SSBC Vice President Trevor Welton reported that he had heard the Shovelnose Creek project (Squamish system) had been completed. This project would protect Shovelnose Creek, the sole remaining steelhead tributary on the upper Squamish, from inundation by cold Squamish water.
The SSBC has been following the Coquihalla River steelhead situation. Historically, a rock in Coquihalla canyon created a leap which allowed summer steelhead to reach their spawning areas on the upper Coquihalla but prevented other fish from moving upstream. Several years ago, movement of this rock meant that almost all summer steelhead upstream migration was blocked. So far, the Province has used angling to capture and move summer steelhead upstream but has done nothing about the rock which blocks upstream migration. A recent swim showed that 80 summer steelhead had actually managed to pass upstream, but plenty more remained stuck below the obstruction. The SSBC will hire BGC Engineering to look at the obstruction and determine what can be done.
In 2016, I have found from my own experience (West Vancouver beaches, Capilano River) and heard from other areas that coho returns are reduced but the fish are larger than usual. Angling has been very tough—the fish appear to be “turned off” to anglers’ presentations and refuse to bite.