For several weeks between mid-August and late-September, this was a very common sight at the Goodyear Dam on Bowmanville Creek, just a short walk from Frank's place.
Dozens of Chinook salmon (intermingled with a few trout) wait near the base at the fish ladder as they regain some strength and determination to make their way upstream to spawn. I recently posted about the ladder here, and at that time, indicated that I would tell you about the salmon transfer that took place at the dam, this year.
Human intervention was required as so many of the Chinooks have outgrown the fish ladder which was originally constructed for significantly smaller trout. The hope was to transfer as many salmon as possible before the end of September (their final number of transferred fish totaled 5,540 which exceeded their goal of 5,000) and then start construction on the new, improved and larger ladders.
Funds and time have posed a problem, and now the new ladders will not be in place before next summer. That's okay as far as the spring trout run goes as they're still able to use the old ladders. Hopefully the new ones will be in place for next autumn's salmon.
You're probably wondering how it is that people go about sending 20 to 30 pound (9 - 14kg) salmon up a dam. I had no idea, myself and so I headed over to the creek to watch the volunteers at work. Lucky for you, I brought my camera with me. Did you honestly expect otherwise?
Along the way, I noticed that these men were transferring the salmon in a different way - home to the dinner table.
Others were not going to be allowed to transfer them anywhere. They were caught fishing without a proper license and their vehicles and fishing equipment might well have been confiscated because of it.
But back to the transfer.
Dozens of volunteers came out on various days to help with the process. Before school began in September, many of those helpers were kids. They worked tirelessly to net, hold and carry fish that probably weighed about twenty to thirty percent of their own body weight. This photo was snapped in late August when the air and water were considerable warmer.
It was a much easier catch for this guy than for the young girls. He seemed to be having a pretty good time.
Another one nabbed.
Volunteers worked together to transfer the fish from the net into a sack.
Frank guesstimates this one to be at least 25 pounds (11kg)
Once the salmon is bagged, it's hooked onto a pulley to make its way to the top of the dam. Now you know what the bird seed sack was all about in the previous post.
Volunteers at the top of the dam are there to receive the fish, record the numbers and to weigh the ones they feel are particularly large.
The salmon is carefully removed from the bag, placed into a basket and passed over to waiting hands in the water at the top of the dam. The fish is held in the water for a while as it regains its equilibrium - necessary after being suspended upside down for the trip up the pulley system.
One after the other, fish are handled in this fashion and then released. I witnessed many of them eventually slide right back down the dam. Perhaps some of those had already completed the business of spawning. Perhaps they were just too exhausted to make it. I hope that most of them did though.
Sadly, these numbers only represent a fraction of the fish which were trying to make it over the dam, this year. There are simply far too many salmon - more every year. They are probably putting a dent in the trout population, which is disappointing to many - especially the trout.
And speaking of trout, the amber globes seen in the previous post was a close up of salmon eggs. The roe is often collected and kept as bait for trout fishing. When anglers are walking back to their cars with the salmon in tow, the roe will often spill out along the path behind them.
This less than two minute video shows the transfer process for one salmon from start to finish. Please keep in mind that I had a large, heavy lens on the camera, and when switched to video mode, it does not allow me to hold the camera close to observe through the viewfinder (my preferred means of snapping shots). I had to extend the camera and lens out in front of me to look through the live capture window instead. Therefore, there are a few portions which are quite blurry while I struggled to maintain focus and avoid the shakes. I apologize for that and hope you enjoy the video anyway.
More photos coming up in a few days.