It’s officially spawning season for BC Pacific salmon, and Vancouver Island is rife with opportunities to watch different species of the fish return to the streams where they were born.
After travelling thousands of kilometres, female salmon dig nests along the stream bottom to lay around 3,000 eggs, which are then fertilized by a male. Within 10 days after spawning, both the male and female salmon will die nearby.
One of the most well-known spots to watch spawning salmon is Goldstream River in Goldstream Provincial Park, 25 minutes northwest of downtown Victoria. An estimated 30,000 salmon make their way through Goldstream Provincial Park annually.
Every year from mid-October to early December, salmon aficionados clog the Malahat and gape at the chum, coho and chinook salmon cavorting in breeding streams.
The Qualicum River Hatchery Trails welcomes different species of salmon in its streams. A 10-kilometre-long trail stretches along the side of the river located about 12 kilometres past Qualicum Beach.
Coho and chinook salmon can be found at Stamp River Provincial Park near Port Alberni, where fish leap dramatically upstream. The Stamp Falls Fishway is also a popular spot for hungry black bears and eagles, so bring a pair of binoculars to watch some apex predators in action.
Finally, Campbell River has many streams and rivers where you can watch salmon spawn, and the Quinsam River area is one of the most popular.
While watching the salmon run can be quite exciting, there are some key rules to follow. Visitors should stay out of the river and remain quiet. Dogs must also be kept on-leash and out of the water.
Other top tips for watching a salmon run include wearing dull colours, as bright reds, purple and pinks can distract fish. Wearing sunglasses with polarizing lenses are also useful to reduce glare from the water.
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