Sunday, September 16, 2012

Spawn-taneous Salmon

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.


upstream
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.




fins3
Fins and tail are all over the creek - almost giving them the appearance of sharks.




jump17
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.


jump9
This one made it up onto the concrete dam in between ladders.




jump14
Most of them will eventually right themselves and work their way back into the water. Others will perish on this platform.




jump13
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.




jump3
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.




jump
This one made it.




jump8
As did this one.




jump7
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.


catch release2
I watched as this young boy caught and released this Chinook.




catch release4
He carefully removed the hook and lifted the salmon over deeper water.




catch release6
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.


rinse
It's a good thing Benny likes to be in the creek. He needed to rinse off some of the excess Eau de Poisson.




bennybath
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.

64 comments:

Tammie Lee said...

wow, wonderful images! Spawning is an amazing event. I also saw and photographed Kokanee Salmon yesterday, so it was extra fun to come here and see your images.

Kerry said...

Salmon are magical, and I love seeing them here in Oregon. They are absolutely amazing animals and everybody should have a chance to watch them complete their life cycle. Thanks for this.

Linda said...

I really did enjoy this. And I'm glad you included the photos of the boy with one of the fish. It really gave perspective on the size of these guys. What is it with dogs and smelly things? Even cute little Benny.

RedWillow ~ a Beauty seeker said...

Ive seen the Salmon run in BC but never have taken photos . The are so strong and your photos are magnificent. Just gorgeous.

ADRIAN said...

A superb sight. Thanks for sharing it.
Think yourself lucky it's only dead fish for Benny. Mine found a dead seal....so long deceased it had exploded.

Ruby said...

Great pictures. Too bad about the dam fish ladder. Cheers, Ruby

Kerri said...

Those are some amazing "action" shots Hilary! Superb!

Andy said...

The lack of a fish ladder certainly defeats the restoration program of the salmon.

Betty Manousos said...

dear hilary, i'm wowed!

great collection of documentary photographs! what a treat!

big hugs!

June said...

I like that people are undertaking a chinook lift . . . but it makes me a little sad that the stream has been altered so that the natural selection process has been short-circuited.

She Who Carries Camera said...

I find it simply amazing about their instinct to swim against the current and jump up ladders. And you could have fooled me about that eel as well....it certainly looks like a pipe to me! Thanks for the report and great photos!

Brian Miller said...

good on that boy....we could only wish as much with many...pretty cool how determined they are by instinct to make that journey even unto their deaths at time....wow on the eel too....

Dianne said...

Benny Benny Benny
rolling around dead fish!!
boys will be boys they say
he looks so sweet and little having his shower

the saga of the salmon is fascinating!

ellen abbott said...

great photos Hilary. and I'm glad I didn't have to go home with a stinky dog.

Country Girl said...

You are amazing. Love this post, Hilary!

TexWisGirl said...

benny just has to get in on the action, doesn't he? i bet he could make it thru those ladders!

really neat thing to share with us. nothing i get to see here. :)

messymimi said...

Not something we get to witness around here; i'm glad people are lending a hand and building an easier way for the salmon to make it upstream.

joeh said...

Teriffic pictures!

Diane Cayton-Hakey said...

Oh, Benny Benny Benny, you stinky poo boy. LOL Glad you got a bath afterwards!

Linda Wildenstein said...

This was fascinating to a desert rat like me. I see fish our lakes and streams but not like this. Thanks. OmaLinda

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

It is fascinating to see how these fish are created to know just what to do each year.Great pictures to tell this story.

TSannie said...

Are the eels migrating as well?

Red said...

I do enjoy watching fish so your photos were mos appreciated. Like the shots o fish in the air. It would seem like a little effort would go a long way to saving many of these fish,

rosaria williams said...

Absolutely stunning!
I had never seen such beauty up close this way!

Unknown Mami said...

Wow, I found this post very touching. They are having such a tough time of it.

Stephen Hayes said...

Love the pictures of the boy catching and releasing the salmon. Here in the Northwest the salmon die after spawning but I don't think that's true where you are, is it?

Maggie May said...

Amazing pictures. How many did Benny catch?
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Danielle said...

That is just amazing.

Madge @ TheViewFromRightHere said...

What a wonderful series of shots... I love watching the salmon return each year...

Anvilcloud said...

I once saw salmon actually spawning in BC. It was a hilite. Thanks for doing this.

Tabor said...

One of my former roles in life was helping fisheries researchers with research literature. I have visited a number of hatcheries as well as watche salmon runs. They are amazing creatures and the thought of catching them just for the eggs makes me ill. Mankind is so short-sighted. Great photos of this time of year!! Kudos to the nature citizens of your community.

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

HIlary, this was fascinating! You had my rapt attention for sure. Loved the video and seeing the boy gently tending to the fish. I can't get over how huge they are! Can't wait to see and learn more. Awesome series!

Oh! And Benny is just like my Sparky: rolling all over in the nastiest funk he can find. Oy vey!

Barb said...

I've never witnessed the spawn Hilary. Thanks for your magnificent photos! Poor Benny - I'm sure he was delighted with his fishy scent.

yaya said...

You got some wonderful shots! Love the one with the eel in the background. Oh Benny....why do dogs love to roll in smelly things?

Bob Bushell said...

I certainly did enjoy myself. I love them, the way that each salmon tries the long way to reach their goal. Brilliant photography.

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I was pretty touched with how carefully that boy released the salmon. I wish everyone cared that much.

These photos and videos were a real treat for me!I've never seen it up close, and I so enjoyed it!

Dave said...

A fascinating blog Hilary. And it has a good message. Well done - Dave

Rosemary Aubut said...

These are amazing images! Wow!!!!!

Out on the prairie said...

What a beauty to watch.Tjhey would be amazing to catch also.

Daryl said...

this was fun ... do we get to see the salmon transfer from the frying pan to the plate?

Crabby McSlacker said...

Dang, great photos but now you've got me feeling all sympathetic for 'em, and I was planning on fish for dinner. Salmon is my fave!

Karen said...

That's something I've never seen, so thank you for posting those pics. Wow a jumping eel? Creeeepy! That's a huge fish that boy caught. Benie doesn't go after them, does he?

Suldog said...

I wonder - Is there any way to re-train salmon to spawn someplace else? I suppose not, otherwise they wouldn't be airlifting them over the dam. Fascinating. I look forward to the photos of the net-and-release.

Leah J. Utas said...

Such determined creatures. So glad they're getting a fin up the path.

photowannabe said...

Fascinating shots Hilary.
Nature is so amazing. I'm glad Frank's area is willing to help these big guys out a bit.
Tender pictures of the young boy releasing his catch.
A real character study.
Stinky Benny. Why do some dogs just love rolling in the Eau de Poisson? (:0)

Barbara Shallue said...

That is so interesting, Hilary! Thank you for sharing this with us - and what a great kid! My sympathies on Benny's little adventure - my pups are greatly attracted to dead things, too!

Gillian Olson said...

It's an amazing end to the salmon's life cycle. Thanks for the wonderful pictures.
The pics of Benny are priceless.

ladyfi said...

What amazing shots of this experience! I 'd love to see this in person. And how kind of the community to help the salmon spawn.

Pearl said...

What wonderful shots, Hillary.

Pearl

SandyCarlson said...

Oh, that made my day! What great images. And the young man helping the salmon....Great stuff! And Benny to rock the universe....

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Great photos! I've never seen this many in one place, despite several attempts at salmon viewing in Seattle. Truly a spectacular sight.
Thanks for sharing! :)

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

What an interesting post and photos.

Anita said...

I'll repeat what others have said: this is absolutely fascinating! Thank you.

ps. When my little dog begins to roll in the grass, I quickly snatch her up because I know she's found something stinky. :)

Scott said...

That was fun. Thanks for sharing.

Nadezda said...

Hilary!Thanks for great shots! I often see the salmon in the supermarket and have never seen it going by the river up.

Michael Manning said...

Hilary: I always enjoy Benny because he has such an attitude of "fun"! What amazing photography you've captured of this phenomenon. Not easy! But always wonderful to come by here and feel refreshed!!!

Mental P Mama said...

Wow! How amazing to see it in person! Oh, and Benny!!!

suz said...

Very nice photos. Thanks for sharing. - Karen

Daniel LaFrance said...

What a beautiful sight! Your images really showcase some of the activity of the swimmers and visitors.

Laura Delegal - Leroy Photography said...

Oh, that's so sad. I just want to help them out. I hope everything gets finished for next year.

Linda said...

Wonderful pictures and video. I love the shot of the fish in mid-air along with the eel. Even though I enjoy a good salmon dinner, I feel for the efforts the fish. I had no idea of the obstacles they must overcome. I also appreciate the care with which the boy treated the fish. I like to fish, too.

Lisa Gordon said...

I was able to see this once, and it really is an amazing event to watch. The images you captured are wonderful.

lime said...

i never heard of fish ladders until my visit to seattle last year. those are some impressive pictures of the salmon migration. why am i not surprised benny enjoyed it with great relish? ;)

Anonymous said...

These photos are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

maryam