Yard Creek salmon run without salmon

Annual visitors to Malakwa fish habitat surprised to see no sockeye coming through.

Salmon fight their way along Yard Creek during the dominant salmon run year of 2010.

A salmon run without salmon at Yard Creek has some Shuswap residents wondering what’s going on.

Sicamous resident Greg Bird has lived in the area for more than 30 years. During this time, Bird has visited Yard Creek annually to see the early sockeye run.

“And every year, it’s been very consistent. There’s lots and lots of salmon,” said Bird.

Last year was a different story. Bird said he didn’t see one spawning salmon making its way through the creek’s rocky waters, or dead on its banks.

“I didn’t think too much of it, but this year again there is absolutely nothing,” said Bird. “So there are no salmon getting up to Yard Creek at all, and according to the boys out in Malakwa, there are no salmon in the river either.

“I think it should be a real concern for everybody. If the salmon aren’t making it up here every year, what’s going on?”

Lori Schneider Wood with Shuswap Trails was also taken aback by the dearth of fish in Yard Creek and the Eagle River. She said they typically start showing up at the end of August, early September. This year she visited the creek on three separate occasions and did not find one live or dead sockeye or kokanee.

“I have had a talk with a lot of people and some of the Neskonlith band members and there are problems with the salmon this year,” said Wood.

Keri Benner, program head with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Fraser sockeye assessment, said there were low expectations for this year’s run based on the parental brood count for the area in 2012, which amounted to an estimate of zero sockeye salmon.

“It would have been surprising to see fish there this year and not expected,” said Benner of Yard Creek.

The last dominant year for the run was 2014, during which there was a count of around 86,000 salmon passing through Yard Creek. As the dominant salmon run years are on a four-year-cycle, the next big run will be in 2018.

But Benner concurs that overall sockeye salmon numbers are lower than expected – and not just for the South Thompson system.

“I think everybody is aware that, this year again, even though we’re coming off a brood of zero, we wouldn’t have expected many in the creek itself,” said Benner. “The Fraser sockeye as a whole this year have not done very well, and we’ve had very, very low returns. So even though it’s a small year expected for the South Thompson system, it’s even lower than we would have ever expected.”