Friday, April 9, 2010

Season 2010 Begins

The 2010 season began on Feb 22 with a thrilling ride under the fog and just above the water in a helicopter. Knight Inlet Lodge looked sound and secure as the dogs greeted us when we landed safely.

We quickly got the water and the heater turned on in our quarters . Our luggage was safely stowed and we soon had lunch ready. We were here early to begin the annual salmon out migration count. After last falls tremendous migration of pink salmon from the Pacific we are expecting very large numbers of fry. In the next couple days we were busy setting up the fry splitter trap at the Glendale River spawning channel and the rotary screw trap in the river, about a half mile downstream. There had obviously been some major high water events over the winter as there were new log jams and more erosion along the river banks. Hopefully these floods did not do too much damage to the salmon redds as they waited for their precious eggs to hatch.

It was unusual to catch the first fry before the end of February, but we did this year. The winter was warmer than normal so the eggs would have hatched a bit sooner. We had between 50 and 100 pink fry in the 5% box everyday in Feb. 100 fry equals about 2000 fry leaving the spawning channel every day. As the season progresses the numbers get bigg daily. The peak that I saw and counted was on March 26, when there were 64838 grams of fish at 3.79 fry per gram translates to 245,736 fry in the 5% holding box. That is potentially 1,149.845 pinks went over the weir in the past 24 hours. Many days toward the end of March were over 1 million fish or close to it. When I left on April 5 we had counted over 13 million fry which had left the spawning channel. This is quite a sight to see when you open the box and can't see the bottom for fry swimming around. Every scoop of the net holds thousands of fish. You can stand at the end of the weir and watch the fry resting in a holding pool trying to avoid the rushing water that leads them to the trap. They are not hurt as the waters take them gently through this obstacle, one of thousands they will encounter on their long journey. The river will be much more hazardous for them.
Downstream sits the RST, anchored to the river bank. This trap floats on top of the water, trying to monitor the salmon fry run in the river. It is not nearly as accurate as the weir because there are too many other channels that the fish can use. This year there is a new log jam just upstream from this trap, so that effects where the fry go in the channel. The one notable fact we see this year is the total absence of chum salmon. Normally we would have about 15 to 20 percent of the fry caught in the RST be chum. This year it is very rare to see even one chum salmon.
I also monitor the bird life that hang around the estuary for the winter. The highlight for me are the Trumpeter swans. This year there are 19 swans living in the river mouth. That is the same count as the previous two years. Mallards, Canada geese and common mergansers are the largest flocks of birds. 13 different species in the end of Feb. Mar 14 that number increased to 19, but there were only 2 swans left. I even saw one pied bald robin for the first time. By the first of April I noticed the first Common loons and the Barrows Goldeneyes had replaced the common goldeneye.
Pacific White sided dolphins and harbor seals were common visitors. I watched the seals feeding on herring around the quiet waters of the lodge. A sudden splash as the herring ball jumped out of the water trying to avoid becoming a seal meal often stopped us to watch this dramatic action. In the clear water we often witnessed the chase underwater.

We also spend some time getting the lodge ready for the season. Busses and equipment all have to be serviced and started. Supplies have to be checked out and ordered, firewood is cut and chopped, meals are prepared and dishes washed by ourselves. We are all very capable cooks, so it is fun to do.

For the first time, we raised a batch of Coho eggs over the winter. The local coho were caught and eggs stripped and fertilized then installed into the incubator. Over the long winter it was the caretakers job to make sure they survived. April 2 we turned them loose into the cap trough in the interpretive center for the summer. They even began eating within a day or so.

In the evenings, I have been busy editing my latest book. The publisher edited it once, sent it back to me for a bit of rewriting, then I sent it back. Only a couple minor changes the second time around and it is ready for the design stage. The Wild Salmon Odysey should be out this summer. Seasons of the Grizzly continues to sell with the new assistance of a distributor Sandhill Books.

I have also been counting the days to when Fay and I will head out on our first major holiday. We are going to London, then Zambia for a month. We are counting our dollars, cruising the internet, buying cloths and gear in preparation for this event. We are both very excited to be able to have this opportunity. This is a guide exchange with a camp called Norman Carr Safaris, so we get the freedom of their camps and will bring one of their guides back here when we come home. I think Aubrey is as excited as we are.

The lodge will open for the season on May 15, and I am looking forward to my fourth season.

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