Tri-Cities' hatcheries report best Coho return in years

Some Tri-Cities fish hatcheries are reporting the best Coho return in years, while others are reporting the best return in decades.

While spawning surveyors won’t be finished with their fish counts until the end of December, the hatchery workers are encouraged about the number of returning salmon.

Dave Bennie, a volunteer with Noons Creek Hatchery for 25 years, said the coho have been coming: “in piles.”

“I don’t remember having one this big. This is one of the biggest returns of coho I’ve ever seen in the creek,” Bennie said. “I’m looking right outside the hatchery now and I can probably see 20.”

Coquitlam’s Hoy Creek Hatchery and Port Coquitlam’s Hyde Creek Hatchery also reported substantial returns, though not to the same extent as Port Moody.

Coho salmon arrive in late October to late December, and need to spend several weeks in the freshwater before they spawn.

While it’s impossible to get an exact count, Bennie estimates between 400 and 500 fish have returned to Noons Creek Hatchery so far this year.

And while the several hundred coho returned to spawn last year, only 15 coho and 15 chum salmon made it back in 2021.

“The trouble is the previous two summers, we had hardly any water, so the wild coho in the creek, their survival was really hit and miss,” Bennie said. “Every little predator – everything from an American dipper to raccoons to herons – would get them if there’s no water.”

Jean Peachman, president of the Hyde Creek hatchery, said that at first they were worried as it had not rained enough in October.

Hyde Creek dries up occasionally in the summer, and a lack of rain has stalled the coho return in the past.

While she didn’t have any hard numbers, Peachman said it was probably the best coho return in four or five years.

“They’re still coming in now, so we’re quite happy with that.” she said. “The number certainly seems to be up.”

Even more coho may be coming in next month due to their late start, Peachman added.

Robbin Whachell, communications director of the Hoy Creek Hatchery, also confirmed spawn surveyors had reported elevated numbers of salmon returning.

Minnie said he cannot attribute the high returns to any cause specifically, as the fish survival rate can be impacted by many factors from urban development to overfishing.

However, he said this year’s salmon returns have certainly impacted the number of visitors to their hatchery.

“I just got off the phone with one,” he said. “New Canadians are all asking questions about the fish.”

Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch

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