Building beds for salmon on the Campbell River

The spawning gravel is a distinct light brown that appears ideal for those big Tyees nestling in to lay their eggs.

MP John Duncan (from left)

It looks like a big comfy bed…if you’re a salmon.

For those on two feet hiking the Canyon View Trail, the new spawning bed is easy to spot on the south side of the Campbell River, just down from the John Hart Generating Station.

The deeper parts of the river are dark, but the spawning gravel is a distinct light brown that appears ideal for those big Tyees nestling in to lay their eggs.

“We know they’re as big as 61 pounds!” says Martin Buchanan, chairman of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation as conducts a tour for local politicians.

Buchanan is referring to his buddy, and past foundation chairman, Mike Gage, who caught a 61.5-pound chinook in the famous Tyee Pool (located near the mouth of the river) earlier this month. The chinook are starting to return in greater numbers to the Campbell – there’s tons of pinks running now too – and part of the reason is the work done by the foundation to build more spawning beds.

“With the dam, there’s no recruitment of gravel,” Buchanan explains.

Just recently, the foundation completed its recent spawning bed at an estimated cost of $170,000-$180,000. It’s a hefty cost for 42,000 tonnes of gravel, equipment and labour, and the project was supported by a grant from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

North Island MP John Duncan – along with municipal politicians – was on hand for the tour and also to present the $20,500 cheque which comes from a $1.9 million fund to support recreational fishing projects throughout B.C.

“We set up this community partnership across the country which is designed to restore, re-establish and enhance fisheries habitat for recreational angling,” he said. “It’s not an expensive program for us and it gets a big bang for its buck. And it’s great to work with local conservation groups.”

Duncan also noted the Campbell River Salmon Foundation was the only group in the riding to apply for and receive money in the first round of funding. He said the second “intake” for applications is approaching and urged other conservation groups, along with the foundation, to apply before the next deadline.

Buchanan assured the MP they would be applying for funding and are considering a project on the upper Quinsam River. There’s a falls just below Quinsam River that is tough to get over for migrating coho salmon and steelhead heading to spawning grounds. Building steps into a portion of the falls would give these two species a better chance to reach spawning grounds.