While many of us would have gladly done without the cool, cloudy days there is a silver lining to this year’s summer rain clouds.It was a perfect year for salmon.
Salmon are a cold water species, needing temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius to thrive. Fry will start dying at temperatures warmer than 15 degrees and adults above 20. Temperatures higher than 20 and they may survive but chances of spawning success are reduced, their health is strained, and they are more susceptible to dying before they are able to spawn.
Salmon also migrate into the Upper Bulkley to spawn starting in June for the chinook and going until November for the coho. When the river is low beavers tend to build dams to help slow down the loss of water to the system and create excellent rearing ponds for fry. Unfortunately they also block spawners from accessing a lot of prime real estate.
But this year was not like other years. With such a cold, wet summer it was a perfect year for our finned friends. According to Environment Canada’s real time water temperature monitoring station near the North Road bridge (https://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/) there were only 6 days of river water temperatures above 20C between July 28th and Aug 2. All other days were well below 20 degrees. Not so fun to swim in for us but heaven for the chinook and coho who call this river home.
And because water levels were so high beavers did not feel it necessary to build dams which are usually a huge issue. Upper Bulkley River Streamkeepers keep an eye on known beaver dam locations during spawner migration and this year every single one of them was passable.
High water levels also meant that pools were deep and places to hide were abundant. Chinook found their way as far up as Bulkley falls in August and coho were widespread throughout the watershed, spawning in many places where they are not normally able to get to. While this makes it incredibly difficult for us hatchery types to find the fish, I am thrilled that it was such an easy year for the fish. I guess there is some good that came out of the cold and wet. Here’s hoping in 4 years we have an abundant salmon population returning to our little river because of 2020, the perfect salmon summer.