Kitimat’s salmon see mostly typical year save for low levels of chinook

The chinook were at one of its lowest levels since the hatchery first opened its doors.

Acting manager at the Kitimat Fish Hatchery says most salmon stocks were good this year, with one exception; the chinook.

The popular spring salmon saw its worst return since the hatchery came into existence, said Markus Feldhoff.

“We didn’t even come close to getting our egg target,” he said, which is about 2.3 million eggs.

This year they couldn’t even reach one million.

“Most of the northern stocks of Chinooks was also very poor,” he said, noting it wasn’t only the Kitimat River.

However he personally has no theories on why the return was so bad, but in past years they have not had any problem in reaching their egg targets.

Steelheads were good for the hatchery, and they collected their normal allotment of 60,000 eggs. Steelheads are raised at the hatchery for two years now, a change from past years where they were housed for only one year. When Eurocan’s mill closed, the hatchery lost its source of heated water. Now the steelhead live in well water at about 8C degrees, not warm enough to let them grow rapidly.

“That water isn’t quite warm enough to grow them to an appropriate size,” he said. “We keep them on-site for two years before we release them.”

He said they will have to wait until 2014 to see how the return is from their first batch of two-year steelhead.

It also looked like another good year for chum, continuing the trend of the last two years.

“We did notice they appeared in the river a bit earlier than we normally saw,” he said.

The hatchery takes in about two million chum eggs now, compared to a historical four million eggs from the Kitimat River. The hatchery also no longer enhance other rivers off of the Douglas Channel.

As for coho, they had no problem collecting their brood stock of about 600,000 eggs.

From the administration perspective he said staffing continues to be a concern at the facility, which is operated under the federal govermnent. He said a hiring freeze remains in effect throughout the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but thankfully hatcheries have been spared the axe in terms of layoffs.

However they can’t hire full time employees. Where they are supposed to have eight, they only have three at the moment, with the remainder filled with temporary staff.