Salmon runs
JoeM <Send E-Mail> -- Wednesday, 22 8 01, at 11:47 a.m.

Hey there Grant, you've been fishing for a long time and probably know a thing or two about salmon and how they run and when they run up the rivers...I thought you would be the best guy to ask this question...
Well as you know, the salmon have started to make there way up the rivers and I have been float fishing the Nottawasaga river for these salmon for the past week and a half....After it rained, the salmon have began to run up in significant numbers and are scooting up the river...but the problem is, they aren't stopping!....and I think the reason that I and about 20 other fishermen on the river have had no luck is because they are going right past our offerings and are destined to make it up the river...It's really weird though, I was fishing a hole today on pine river and 2 salmon would enter the hole, then 2 salmon would leave...3 salmon would enter the hole, then 3 salmon would leave and this would continuosly happen in every hole...and its like clockwork, once 2 would leave, 2 would join..but they wouldnt stay in the hole...there was so many salmon in the river, but I knew they wouldnt even look at my offerings so I just left...
Now do salmon already know where they are going to spawn? that why they ran right past me? it true that where they are born, they will return to spawn..does that include the same area or spawn bed that they were born?...Or are all those salmon only running because the water is high?.but wouldnt there just be a jam of salmon at the headwaters of the river? where do they stop and when?.....

Hehe...sorry for the long post, but when your salmon fishing, you wonder alot about these fish and how they run...

Thanks for any input on your thoughts....

: )

Grant! Re: Salmon runs
Grant Ferris <Send E-Mail> -- Thursday, 23 8 01, at 12:41 a.m.

Great questions Joe, with such an enquiring mind, you must catch a lot of fish.

I'll take a stab at your questions but please don't hesitate to ask again if I don't get in the ballpark with my answers.

Salmon and steelhead evolved on west coast streams as we all know and they have survived over thousands of years because nature made sure she didn't put all their eggs in one basket,(stream) so-to-speak. Some streams have early and late runs. This way, in case of a disaster that wipes out all the fish in a stream at one time, some earlier or later runs might have a chance to spawn successfully and save that strain of fish.

Now suppose the disaster was major and no fish survived at all in the stream for a year or four...say something like Mount Helens volcanic eruption. Some time down the road the fish that don't have very strong homing instincts would wander away from their natal streams and repopulate the stream that had all their fish wiped out. Some fish have very strong homing instincts while others must not have and it's a survival gene for both types perhaps.

Please remember that this is only a theory based on other peoples ideas but it makes sense to me.

Now as regards Nottawasaga fish or say Bighead River fish...lets take a little flight of fancy in our imaginations to try and support the earlier theory by anecdotal rather than scientific evidence:

I remember when there were no salmon runs in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. I remember seeing one of the first chinook ascending the Bighead and wondering why the river had no major salmon run. Well, there were no "native" chinooks in the Bighead River and only the odd wanderer ascended that stream. Now there are plenty and I suggest that many are heading back to where they were born...but some are wanderers and some others from the Bighead are likely ascending other streams where their progeny may be established in a new natal stream.

My bet or guess is that these fish were given a very fine sense of smell for more than just to find food. Out west they have been proven able to find their way through obstructions and dams to the small stream where they were tagged years before. But some wander and that's nature's way.

Starting last spring, all Huron salmon stocked had to be fin clipped. Within a few years if we get salmon with no clips we will know they are reproducing naturally and successfully. Perhaps the MNR will be able to afford further identification and samplig to find out what's happening in streams like the Nottawasaga... but for now we have to just guess.

You said:

>>Now do salmon already know where they are going to spawn?is it true that where they are born, they will return to spawn..does that include the same area or spawn bed that they were born?...

We only know they are usually attracted to their natal streams, as for specific beds, I have no idea but I doubt it. Probably the same general area in most cases.

>>>is that why they ran right past me?

Obviously they were not ready to stop yet.

>>>Or are all those salmon only running because the water is high?

That too, that begins a run. Next time we can discuss the type of chinook some of us think we have in the Great Lakes, ever heard of the Tule strain?

>>>>.but wouldnt there just be a jam of salmon at the headwaters of the river?

I've seen that happen in small streams. My old Lab used to go crazy trying to retrive them. You should have seen some of the shorter Owen Sound streams before they were made into sanctuaries. You could hardly shoehorn another salmon in after a big rain.

>>> where do they stop and when?.....

I know they stop when they can't get any further upstream, I suspect they also stop when the hen gets too ripe and chooses a spawning bed. Naturally any males stop then too, wouldn't you? In the Saugeen we have some that stop at the first gravel and some that beat their heads against the Walkerton dam 50 water miles upstream. On the west coast some big Springers (Chinooks) travel hundreds of miles.

Maybe one of my Oregon or Washington State friends would like to contibute on these questions, Tom or Derrel, are you out there? Help!

Grant in Bruc County.