Column: Turnips, golf balls and other rewards of salmon counting in the Shuswap

Shuswap Outdoors by Hank Shelley

From their headwaters, Duteau, Harris and Creighton creeks join in the Village of Lumby.

In early November, coho salmon make their way to these systems to spawn from the Shuswap River. In the past, fishery officers like myself counted these fish by walking each stream, among many others, each fall.

The counting of chinook or coho give the branch historic numbers kept on record over many years to evaluate stock strength. Singles, pairs, reds and carcasses are totalled at days end from each system.

One day while counting, I walked down Creighton Creek, across the road into Trinity Farms. Here they grow huge crops of vegetables for the retail market throughout the Okanagan. Among those vegetables were turnips – rows of beautiful turnips Some had bits broken, others tiny worm holes. The farmer said they couldn’t be marketed, “Help yourself.” I filled my pack. Turnips – good for turnip puff and a must for good ol’ Irish stew.

Three days later, as new coho arrived, I again walked the same system and filled another pack the farmer set aside for me. The food bank got most.

Read more: After 30 years, Shuswap Lady Striders run stronger than ever

Read more: Take a hike with the Shuswap Outdoors Club

Read more: Shuswap Outdoors: Plastic pollution greatest concern for migrating salmon

Dure Meadow Road in Lumby has a small golf course next to Duteau Creek and Highway 6. Here again, I’d get the local taxi to drop me off at the headwaters gate to begin my count of fish into town. Entering the golf course stretch, I’d begin fetching balls from the rough and in the stream – 26 in all. Some were TruFlight, some very expensive. Back at the office, I’d give Linda, our secretary and a very avid golfer, the spoils of the day. Her dad, Chuck, was the meat cutter at Harrison’s IGA in Armstrong, and Linda grew up with a golf club in her hands. Byril, my boss, also enjoyed golf.

Today, First Nation fishery groups count our salmon on 41 different systems in the Shuswap. Fond memories remain for me of taking burrs from horses manes with my Buck knife on the Salmon River; being attacked and almost licked to death by two large black Bouvier dogs with flagging ribbon so they wouldn’t be mistaken for bears on the Eagle River; and finding a wallet poking from a sand bar with a five note floating outside. It was shipped back to a college student in Coleman, Alta. They had hit a log jam and tipped their canoe that spring.

Best of all was the turnip/golf ball walk of the hundreds of miles counting salmon.

Next week: update on hunting, black grizzly bears and the wolf situation. Be safe on our byways and highways when heading afield!


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