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

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