In 2017 the Port Alberni Salmon Festival Society raised the price of derby tickets to $50, with the extra $10 to go toward salmon enhancement projects. As the 2018 Salmon Fest and annual fishing derby prepare to kick off, two enhancement projects are putting cash infusions from that money to good use.
In February, Carol Schmitt of Omega Pacific Hatchery near Great Central Lake received $14,000 to assist with her innovative methods to raise and release chinook yearlings.
“We had allocated that last fall,” said Chris Wynans from the Salmon Fest Society. There is an application process in place for these enhancement dollars, and the main criteria is the winning projects must involve bringing fish to the Alberni Valley.
“We want projects that actually create fish.”
The project funded at Omega Pacific was for code tagging and releasing the yearlings in the spring. “We’re expecting those fish to be back in four years,” Wynans said.
Dan Shannon of Shannon Farms was the second recipient of the salmon enhancement funding, and received his cheque on Saturday, Aug. 25. An avid fisher since he was a kid, Shannon will put his $3,000 to good use at the small hatchery he has maintained for the past 25 years.
Shannon is building a fish trap that will better assist him and other volunteers to catch brood stock in the fall. They raise 30,000 to 50,000 coho fry from four different creek systems: Bear, Deer, Spaht and Beaver creeks. Their hatchery is small, using a gravity-fed water system, and was built using leftover material from Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery.
Shannon admits he did everything backwards in the beginning, building the hatchery without official approval back in 1993.
He was put in touch with the late Jake Leyenaar of the Alberni Valley Enhancement Society and biologist Dave Cluff, and it didn’t take long before his operation was accepted by Fisheries Canada (DFO).
Although it seems strange that a dairy farm would have a fish hatchery on its property, Shannon said the two work well on the farm that has been in the family since the late 1800s.
“I wanted to see more fish coming back. I was worried that the numbers were never as good as when I was a kid,” he explained while showing a visitor the creek system that flows through his dairy farm.
“It was nice to try and put something back.”
The new fish trap, which Shannon said has been built with a lot of help from a Fisheries Canada community liaison, will be put in Bear Creek in a corner of his property, not too far away from the hatchery building.