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Port Alberni Salmon Festival: coho only in 2013
A small projected chinook run for the summer of 2013 has prompted Port Alberni Salmon Festival officials to adopt a coho-only format for the 42nd annual festival on Labour Day weekend.
“There are only 16,700 predicted (chinook) returns, which will give us enough eggs for the hatchery and the river,” said Bob Cole, past chair-man of the Alberni Sportfish Advisory Committee.
Members of the Area 23 Harvest Committee, comprising sportfish, aboriginal, commercial fishers and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) representatives, have all agreed not to fish chinook this summer, Cole said.
The salmon festival will honour the closure, organizer Dan Washington said.
“They have agreed not to fish the chinook in the Alberni Inlet...so we have to go along,” he said.
The salmon festival had a coho-only fishing derby in 2000; the winner weighed in at 20.6 pounds, and the averages were between 15 and 18 pounds. These are smaller than the winning chinooks of the past few years.
“It’s a banner coho year,” Cole said. “We could expect coho in the 20-pound range. If people throw a fast reel with shorter leaders, they should be able to fill their freezer.”
The big thing for this year will be fish identification, he said. “If it’s got black gums, you’d better release it. And safely.”
News that the festival was only being pared down was a relief to Lanny Baer of Toronto, who has already booked a spot in the derby for this summer.
“I have come out to your beautiful province for over 30 years now, fishing for trout and salmon. I learned about the Port Alberni and Ucluelet derbies last year and thought it would be fun to participate in them,” Baer wrote in an e-mail to the News.
“The fact that the Port Alberni derby is now going to be a coho derby does not really deter me.”
Although the new format will likely mean fewer ticket sales, it’s a far cry from having to cancel the festival—a decision organizers were faced with last year Washington said. A good fishing season last summer translated into healthy attendance, and the threat of closing dissipated.
“Even if we only make half our money, that’s half the money to give away in the community rather than no money,” Washington said.
The trickle-down effect if the festival were to close would be far-reaching, he added: organizations like Bread of Life, Salvation Army, Our Town, the Kiwanis and Alberni Valley Rescue Squad would lose a major fundraising event.
“It’s a huge trickle down.”
Washington said it’s time to take a hard look at the salmon festival in its current state and perhaps talk about creating a broader sea festival in the near future.