Frank lives across the road from a swift-running creek that pours into Lake Ontario. Every year, around this time, Chinook salmon make their way from the lake, up the creek and over the dam's fish ladder to spawn. The ladder was built for trout which travel the same route each year - many of those in spring. Salmon are considerably larger than trout and these guys, some weighing close to 30 pounds, are simply becoming too big to make it up the existing ladder.
The community raised funds to build a bypass channel. and work was to get underway earlier this summer. As with many well-intentioned plans, the work was delayed for one reason or another and before they had a chance to begin, the salmon began making their way to the ladders to jump. This was in late July - much earlier than their usual run.
Since so many of the salmon are unable to make their way through the ladder, plans were made to net the larger fish, and lift them over the dam, into the channel above. The hope is to transport up to 5,000 fish in this manner over the next few weeks.
Of course, many of them are small enough to keep on trying their way through the ladder. I snapped these photos when the crew was still setting up their station, but not yet actively transporting salmon.
In the days preceding their approach at the dam, dozens of salmon were working their way upstream. Those tails can really propel them against the current.
Fins and tail are all over the creek - almost giving them the appearance of sharks.
Every now and then you can see one of them flip up in the air. Frank took a look at this photo and pointed out that there's a lamprey eel also seen in the above photo. And here, I thought it was a piece of pipe sticking out of the cement wall.
The next few photos will illustrate how difficult it is currently for these fish to find their way up to and through either of the two ladders.
This one made it up onto the concrete dam in between ladders.
Most of them will eventually right themselves and work their way back into the water. Others will perish on this platform.
This one overestimated his jump and landed above the ladder with a sickening thud. He was back in the water in just a few seconds to rest and then try again.
There are occasional mid-air collisions.
Some of the time they get it right. Here's a very short (12 seconds) video of some jumps.
This one made it.
As did this one.
And this one.
Of course not everyone is there to watch and photograph the salmon. Some are there to catch them. Many of those will also release their catch.
I watched as this young boy caught and released this Chinook.
He carefully removed the hook and lifted the salmon over deeper water.
He held onto it for a few moments to allow it to regain its strength and equilibrium, and then released it back to its freedom.
Now the downside of all of this, is that not every fisherman is as caring and conscientious as this boy. Some leave the carcass on the shore after removing her eggs (to be used for trout fishing). And many salmon simply do not make it to their desired destination. The result is a very smelly walk alongside the creek. And as much as I don't care for the scent of decomposing fish, Benny kind of feels the opposite way about it.
While I was busy photographing some of the above images, Benny was busy getting up close and personal with a dear, departed fish. And by that, I mean that he took great delight and pride in rolling in it.
It's a good thing Benny likes to be in the creek. He needed to rinse off some of the excess Eau de Poisson.
And when he got home, a much needed shower was in order.
I hope you enjoyed watching the salmon with us. Before too long, I'll have some photos of the salmon transfer for you.