Approximately 18,000 chinook salmon fry were released into Swift Creek near the viewing platform in Valemount on Sunday. The fry were transported in water filled holding tanks to the viewing platform from the Spruce City Wildlife Association hatchet in Prince George where they have matured under the watchful eye of the Salmon Support Team. /ANNA MATA

By Andrea Arnold

On Sunday May 15, 2022, about 30 Valemount and area residents joined the Spruce City Wildlife Association Salmon Support Team to release about 18,000 chinook salmon fry into Swift Creek.

The fry were taken as eggs during a weekend of harvesting that the Salmon Support Team performed in mid-August 2021. These young salmon have been growing and maturing in their hatchery in Prince George and are now of an age ready to be released back into the wild. By starting their lives in the controlled environment of the hatchery, the survival rate to fry stage was increased from 4-6 per cent to an amazing 95 per cent.

Water was pumped into the holding tanks located in the back of two pickup trucks from the creek prior to the release. The creek water was added to the tanks at a controlled rate allowing the fry to acclimatize to the temperature before being released.

This process took about a half hour before the fry were sent on a speedy water slide/tube ride from the holding tanks and deposited into the creek.

Full results from this harvest and release will not be known for five years. Since 2019 when a landslide blocked the salmon during the fall run, the salmon population has been declining. That year, only one salmon was reported to have made it back to Swift Creek in Valemount. Chinook salmon have a five year cycle before they will return and spawn a new generation of salmon that will call Valemount home. The hope is that a majority will return to help start the rebuilding of the endangered run.