September Sockeye Salmon Run

This season we witnessed a great Salmon Run in Hazeltine Creek. Mount Polley’s environmental team along with the support of our environmental consultants at Minnow Environmental have continued to monitor use of the constructed creek habitat, and the results have been very encouraging.

Over the course of four weeks from September 6th to October 6th, we conducted several surveys to count the number of adult sockeye salmon that were spawning in the creek.

The sockeye we observed were found in the lower reaches of Hazeltine creek mostly above the confluence with Edney Creek, where they were using all the available habitat up to and into the falls above the Ditch Road bridge. Many of the fish had paired up and were actively spawning, and some were attempting to jump the falls. Have a look at the aerial video footage below that was captured by our drone during our September surveys.

Aerial drone footage of Hazeltine Creek, September 2022.

Summary of observations

In the first week we observed 319 adult sockeye salmon in the newly remediated portions of the lower reaches of Hazeltine Creek.  No fish were observed above the confluence in Edney Creek due to low flow conditions and the appeal of Hazeltine Creek.  Higher flow conditions in Hazeltine Creek have been made possible by impounding water in Polley Lake and releasing higher volumes during the salmon migration.  Although the discharge from the lake is still relatively low it is significantly more than many other streams in the region. We made 803 sockeye salmon observations during a survey of the stream on Sept 22nd, and the following week we made 857 sockeye salmon observations.

In the video below, Gabriel Holmes, Environmental Coordinator at Mount Polley, shares his observations that were taken in the first week of the September observation period.

September 2022 Sockeye Salmon observations recorded by Gabriel Holmes, Environmental Coordinator at Mount Polley.

What it means

A key point of interest in the findings is that these sockeye have strayed from their natal stream and have selected Hazeltine Creek, with its recently constructed fish and spawning habitat.  Sockeye salmon were historically observed in Hazeltine Creek prior to 2014 but had not been observed in Hazeltine Creek from 2014 until 2021, and given the sockeye’s four year cycle of returning to spawn, the observed sockeye had not come from Hazeltine.

For such a small system these are impressive numbers and are a reflection, in part, of this year’s strong sockeye run in the Quesnel system, the quality of the constructed Hazeltine Creek habitat and the water management of Polley Lake.  The Polley Lake water management regime implemented by Mount Polley provides larger flows in the stream during salmon spawning season.

On October 6th, we were surprised and very pleased to count 102 adult Kokanee that had migrated up from Quesnel Lake and were using Hazeltine Creek for their spawning activities. This count was notable, as we have previously observed very few Kokanee in the creek since 2015.

Overall, the Fall 2022 salmon run in Hazeltine Creek was a success and we at Mount Polley are pleased that the creek provides a safe and productive habitat for these salmon.

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