As of this writing, September 1st, Nile Creek is heavily populated with returning Pink salmon and has been since late July when those early arrivals made their first appearance. In spite of low water levels, new fish continue to arrive and, by all accounts, 2014 will be the year for a record setting return of Pinks.
Campbell River uses swimmers and a fish net to count the returns and have done so for many years. They are reporting an estimated return of 1.5 million Pinks vs. last year’s record return of 1 million fish. Good news for sports and commercial fisherman, and for those who just love fresh and smoked fish.
The fish in Nile Creek have never been officially counted, so there is no historical data on returns. However, a number of NCES volunteers are game to start the practice.
So, how do you count fish that are perpetually in motion, and where water levels, turbidity, challenging terrain and hungry predators all conspire to make the task difficult, if not impossible?
The two kilometre length of the Nile creek, plus the one kilometre side channel, have been divided into manageable segments. Volunteers will walk the specified segments of the creek at regular intervals, counting both live and dead fish before, during and after the spawning period. The count began August 23rd and will be counted weekly through the peak mid-September spawning period and until the end of spawning in late September.
DFO (Department of Fisheries & Oceans) encourages community groups to participate in stream walks and provides instruction on best practises and safety, as well as supplying a Stream Inspection Log (SIL) to record the required data in a comprehensive and consistent format. Data captured from the Nile Creek 2014 fish count will be entered into the DFO salmon escapement database and can be used for year over year comparisons. Over a period of time, the data creates a picture of Nile Creek Pink salmon returns and will provide the basis for a “Relative Index of Abundance”.
Although counting fish is not an exact science and all projected returns are estimates, the importance of having the numbers cannot be overstated, as they provide early warning of changes in fish return trends and will help to ensure the continuation of this commercial, sport and gourmet bonanza.
Nile Creek Enhancement Society wishes to thank our dedicated volunteers: Bob Ellis, Ken Traynor, Corley Henry, Bob Niedermayer and Jack Gillen.
Thanks also to Dave Davies and David O’Brien, DFO for their assistance and support.