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Record weekend for Saanich's Colquitz River salmon run

Caretakers of the Colquitz River fish-counting fence are heralding this past weekend as the best in their 13-year history
Colquitz Salmonid Stewardship and Education Society volunteers fish salmon out of the Colquitz River fish fence on the weekend

If salmon enthusiasts are happy for anything after this weekend, it’s that when it rains, it pours.

The caretakers of the Colquitz River fish-counting fence are heralding this past weekend as the best in their 13-year history, with the heavy rainfall helping a record 450 salmon start making their way up the river to spawn.

An average year at the trap sees between 250 to 300 coho salmon come to the fence over the entire season, typically from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

Chris Bos, president of the Colquitz Salmonid Stewardship and Education Society, said he’s never seen anything like it. The society performs the daily fish counts as well as running educational programs for school and the public.

“If we’re getting more than we get on an average year in one day, that’s a very good sign,” Bos said.

All fish this weekend were coho, aside from two cutthroat trout.

Bos said a heavy rain at the end of September got the fish moving and then a long, relatively dry spell left them waiting for the right opportunity to head upstream.

The salmon wait for a heavy rain to start upstream, for added protection from predators.

“(When) the water’s low, it’s clear, they don’t feel comfortable running into that because they’re exposed,” Bos said.

The total number for the run has been up over the last couple of years, and with the already huge numbers for this year, Bos believes he is seeing a trend. Other salmon runs in the area have also been stronger lately, with numbers similar to about two decades ago.

“That’s a good sign that they are getting better ocean survival and that means that they’re coming back in bigger numbers,” Bos said.

Bos remembers the highest count the group has had to be around 575 coho in one year, in the early 2000s. He expects this record to be broken this year. He expects salmon to keep coming with the rain, likely until the end of the month.

“Despite the oil spills, despite the little pollution events we’ve got, we have a little urban creek that’s doing really well,” Bos said. “It’s something that we can all be proud of.”