Chinook Salmon Stocking Program

I recently got a call from a buddy of mine, Sean, saying he just heard that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry was bringing a truckload of baby Chinook Salmon to be released in the Whitby and Oshawa harbours. This I wanted to see; I always wanted to be a fisheries biologist as a kid, so this would be very cool!

I met up with Sean, a bunch of volunteers, and a group from the Metro East Anglers Club in Whitby and witnessed an awesome hour or so of fun for a great cause.

A constant line of people (including plenty of kids) filled small buckets with hatchery water, then received a generous scoop of fingerling Chinook (at least that’s the stage they looked to me—remember, I didn’t make my final career choice as a biologist!), and then they walked them down to a couple of holding pens.

This is the area these young Salmon will reside in for around five weeks. They will be fed a constant diet, and they will grow. Chinook are eating and growing machines. After the five-week feeding and they’ve gotten used to their new lake water, the Metro East Anglers will return one evening and release all 20,000 (minus the odd casualty) into the lake proper.

There is a lot of thought that goes on here; I was thoroughly impressed.

The most significant part of this procedure is taking the lake-ready Salmon out to the main lake (Lake Ontario) and releasing them at night. That way the resident Northern Pike, who as we all know are another voracious feeder, won’t have an idea what’s going on and won’t have a chance at cleaning up on these almost helpless little critters.

Incidentally, they drop 20,000 into the Oshawa harbour as well.

In closing, I want to say this is a good thing. I know there’s someone out there reading this saying “Yeah, but the Ministry should be taking care of poaching, they should be stocking Steelhead, they should be concentrating their efforts elsewhere!” and so on and so on. Remember, it takes a variety of programs to keep everyone happy. Yeah, the number of Conservation Officers is way down. Yeah, we could use more hatcheries, etc. etc. In my opinion, this day was a good one.

Maybe this new government can give the Ministry a nice positive shot towards more projects parallel to this. Let’s hope!

Pete Bowman

One Reply to “Chinook Salmon Stocking Program”

  1. No doubt, this “Chinook Salmon Stocking Program” is a great idea and gives “Mother Nature” a little helping hand but caution should be advised. The means and application of the processes are excellent in letting these little critters adapt to the lake water, but I personally have one major concern and it’s not what you may be thinking. Grinding my gears is the location of these adventures.

    As in the real estate market the saying goes “Location! Location! Location! This should also be true concerning these stocking programs when giving the Nature Lady some assistance. Let me give you one example from my own experiences that should explain where I am coming from and prevent upsetting her too much.

    Early one spring several years ago, the wife and I decided to head on out to Bronte Creek and do some fishing in the park area there at the mouth of the river across from the Bronte Harbor Yacht Club.

    A short time later, we noticed a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry tanker truck pull up to the Bronte Public Boat Launch and begin to release over 35,0000 Chinook Salmon fingerlings. They hooked up their huge hose and opened the release valve. The fish poured out into the river….Wow! This is great!….We never saw this before. What a boost to sport fishing, right? Yeah, that’s what we thought too. Then reality set in! The fish took up residence here and never really moved out into the main lake.

    I take it by now, you have all seen and acquainted yourselves with that Alfred Hitchcock horror movie, “The Birds”. That is exactly what occurred at this location. The population of the hated Cormorant literally exploded. These oily black marine scavengers ravaged the now confused and defenseless hoard of young fish. Other aquatic avians quickly got the message and joined in on the dinner party. Those fish that did survive to wander aimlessly out to Lake Ontario, well you can just imagine what fate awaited them when unable to fend for themselves. A “predator picnic” with all the trimmings. These wee things never grew up. Left to their own accord, it was devastation all around! They never came back to reproduce.

    Furthermore, seeing that these little guys and gals were raised in captivity, they had never experienced the natural processes of being born upstream and working their way down over their developing years. They have never imprinted the scent of the waterway in their little pea brains allowing them to return to their place of birth when fully grown. Never developing feeding and other self preservation principles.

    Taking these important issues into consideration, would it not be more beneficial for the fish and everyone involved, to located these Chinook Salmon Holding Pens several kilometers upstream in their natural habitat? Giving them a fin up to survive the dangers many will face, at least a fighting chance.

    I am no Ichthyologist by any means but let me point out that I am a firm believer in the fact…”If you want to become a millionaire, watch what a millionaire does and then do exactly the same things.”. That ditty can apply to any area of life. In my estimation this little synopsis I have laid out should also apply to this Chinook Stocking Program…..”If you want to become as successful as “Mother Nature, watch what “Mother Nature” does and then do exactly the same things.

    Other wise, you are only “stocking” the aquatic grocery shelves.

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