We had an awesomely terrific paddle today, in good weather made even better by contrast with the last week. And we learned something important that we really should have figured out before stumbling into someplace where we shouldn't have been paddling. It's salmon spawning season, people!
There's been days of rain that have the Beach House surrounded by an informal moat, here in the low land by Cadboro Bay. But this morning dawned bright as I hopped onto the bus to meet John and Louise and Richard for paddling on the Gorge.
There are plenty of pictures from this outing that John will probably post later. What may or may not show in the photos is how full of rainwater the creeks and rivers are around here, after days of rain. We paddled into Portage Inlet, and then up Colquitz Creek, a little river that comes across the Panama Flats after it drains Beaver and Elk Lakes. We were able to get quite far upstream into Cuthbert Holmes Park, behind the parking lot for Tillicum Mall, Silver City movie house, and Pearkes Arena.
It was a great day to be out, and we saw more wildlife than expected. First was a buck on the Gorge shoreline, then many Canada geese and mallard ducks on the way to Colquitz Creek. The water moved from time to time, but we couldn't see what was moving in the cloudy water of the stream.
John realized that as it was near high tide, and the creeks were running with rainwater, that we'd probably be able to go up Craigflower Creek all the way under the highway. We crossed Portage Inlet, and he was right! This creek too was swollen with rain and cloudy with silt in the water. We were able to go easily under the Helmecken Road bridge, and snuck around a fallen log to get towards the tunnel under the highway. Even surprising something under the water wasn't enough to cue me to what we'd been seeing in the creeks. I was looking around to see if a muskrat was swimming nearby, when Richard called out what he was seeing at the rocks that barred our passage further upstream.
Craigflower Creek is a salmon spawning stream! And apparently, so is Colquitz Creek.
Augh! And we were paddling among salmon that were resting in this pool before struggling upstream to the rocky area where they could spawn. We got out of there quickly. And on our way back through the Inlet and the Gorge, we saw at least four seals, one of whom seemed to be hunting salmon with a great deal of splashing.
I hadn't thought that either of these creeks had spawning salmon in them... little creek fish like sculpins, sure, but salmon coming up to spawn? These streams have muddy bottoms where we paddle near the estuaries, and salmon need gravel for spawning. I'd thought any local salmon runs had been wiped out by pollution when this area was being farmed and then subdivided into small lots for housing. But thinking about it, I should have known better and kept us out of the streams in autumn. There are salmon enhancement and conservation programs going on all over the south end of Vancouver Island. People are cleaning local streams. The local newspapers made a big deal out of salmon returning to Douglas Creek in Mount Douglas Park after decades of pollution keeping them out.
So, we've learned our lesson. We'll go exploring up streams in late winter, when the rain fills the streams, not in autumn.
Memo to all kayakers in their own home waters in this part of the world: Stay out of any creeks and streams and little rivers from half-past September through to the end of October! That's spawning season. And in May and June, keep away from baby seals on islands and shorelines in the ocean!