"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"
"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"


Salmon Counts

 salmon1In early January 2019, MVIHES received the final “Bulletin of Salmon Escapement for all salmon species for the Strait of Georgia – South Coast for 2018”. In case you’re wondering about the term “Escapement”, salmon escapement is a DFO term for the number of salmon that do not get caught by commercial or recreational fisheries and return to their freshwater spawning habitat. Here is the estimated salmon spawning run size for the Englishman River by species.


Survey Type/Count Type

Count Conducted by

Date of Last Count

Number of Surveys


Peak Estimate

4 year Average

12 year Average

Periodic peak live plus dead























      *includes 43 jacks
    **includes 69 jacks

How do we get an Accurate Count of Salmon in our River?

Every fall, staff from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Stock Assessment Division for South Coast (Nanaimo) organize the count of Pacific Salmon spawners on the east coast of the Island (and, for that matter, all of BC). The Englishman River, like many other rivers on Vancouver Island, has been subject to counts of salmon since the 1940’s.

snorkelcount1The Englishman River does not have a fence (like Big Qualicum or Little Qualicum Rivers) where salmon can be counted upstream, resulting in a “total cumulative count” of spawners. Instead, a “partial quantitative assessment” of the river during the spawning period is conducted using snorkel surveys.

Surveys begin in early September, before Pink Salmon start to enter the river, and usually finish in late November. Sometimes the surveys are cut short due to dangerously high flows or murky conditions that seriously reduce visibility.



The surveys are done using a staff person from DFO Stock Assessment in Nanaimo, teamed up with snorkelers from the British Columbia Conservation Foundation. Snorkelers in dry suits swim a 4 km section of the river and count salmon by species, note their condition and whether they are spawning or holding in pools, and estimate the number of dead fish (carcasses). A note taker records this information after snorkelers have surveyed a pool or run in their section of river.



The goal is to swim the entire river ten times during the fall spawning season. Since the salmon accessible portion of the river is too long to swim in one day, it has been divided into three swim sections:

Section 1: Englishman Falls Park to Morrison Creek confluence (near the hatchery)
Section 2: Morrison Creek to Top Bridge Park
Section 3: Top Bridge Park to Plumber Road. (below the Orange Bridge)  

Surveys provide an estimate of seventy five to eighty percent of the number of fish in the river at the time of the survey. So, the number of fish counted is a “partial” estimate of the total fish in the river. This number is combined with the number of dead fish counted, to get an estimate of partial abundance.

When Do Salmon Enter the River?

snorkelcount3Pinks are first to enter the estuary in late August, holding in pools below the Orange Bridge. Moving slowly upstream, they can be seen in numbers up past Top Bridge Park, to Morrison Creek by the second week in September. Peak spawn for Pinks is 2nd or 3rd week in September.

Chinook also enter the river when flows in the river are very low in early September. By late September to early October, the peak of the run of Chinook have spawned in the mainstem of the river, mostly from Morrison Creek confluence downstream to Top Bridge Park.

Coho start to enter the river in late September, with a peak of the river count in late October. Coho move into South Englishman River and Center Creek throughout November, but no estimates of how many fish escape into tributaries is made.

Chum salmon begin to enter the river around Thanksgiving weekend and counts peak around the Remembrance Day holiday.

It is interesting to see the river is home to a small population of “river sockeye”. These fish swim up the river in early summer, and sit in the deeper pools in the upper river (like the falls pool below Englishman River Falls). The population is very small, and because they sit in the bottom of the deep pools, swim surveys do not get an accurate count (other than to say there are less than five fish in the river.)

Are the Salmon Runs in the river Wild or Hatchery Augmented?

For the past 15+ years, there has been a small hatchery on the river, at the top of the Clay Young sidechannel. This facility, operated by the former Commercial Fishermen, has had a production goal of 1 million pink eggs and 100 K to 500K Chinook fry. So, Pink and Chinook escapements to the river are augmented by the hatchery. Coho, Chum and Sockeye are wild (naturally spawned) fish.





Avengers Come to the Rescue

creosotedock3Last month MVIHES received a request from James Craig, MVIHES volunteer and retiree of the BC Conservation Foundation, for help in removing  the timbers of a dock that  washed up on the beach at the end of Arlette Road in San Pareil. The dock was pretty skookum, being made of thick beams soaked with creosote and held together with thick iron pins.

Creosote is no longer used in preserving wood and for good reason. During the lifetime of marine pilings and docks treated with creosote, weathering occurs from tides and water flow which slowly opens the oily outer coating and allows some of the hazardous compounds found in creosote to leach into the water. These compounds are ingested by organisms like mollusks and smaller crustaceans which bioaccumulate the compounds inside their bodies. The hazardous compounds are  transferred through the marine food chain when the organisms are eaten by fish and other animals. So you can see it was important to get the timbers off the beach as quickly as possible.  


On January 10, using their own tools and brawn, MVIHES volunteers James Craig, Eamon Stinson, Dick Dobler and Dick's pal Rick Walz from Qualicum Beach, cut through the iron pins, separated the beams with a steel bar, and cut up the timbers so they could be hauled by hand and piled in the parking lot on Arlette Road. The BCCF has graciously offered to haul the timbers away to the RDN dump, and the RDN is waiving the fees for the proper disposal of this contaminated material.

El Presidente Peter Law has sent this letter of thanks to all involved. 





The Avengers Team left to right:


James Craig (Captain Kelp) 

Dick Dobler (Sand Man) 

Rick Walz (Hulk) 

Eamon Stinson (Shore, you know, like Thor)                        






An Exciting Season of Smolt Counting Comes to an End

 Just like that song by Andrea Bocelli, it's "Time to Say Goodbye".....to the smolt trap for another year. On May 26, volunteers arrived with electric drills, trucks and a trailer to dismantle and take away the smolt trap that had been installed in Shelly Creek on March 23.













The past two months have been very eventful, with a mischievious otter stealing fish out of the smolt box for two days, a few lamprey eels (blech!),  and a smart phone that spent a day swimming with the fish at the bottom of the box and kept right on ticking (it even gave the owner a message that moisture was detected....smart). And we had a visit by a reporter from the PQB News. You can view the newspaper article and video here.

This year's Coho smolt count was the best in 5 years. We counted 6963 Coho smolts and fry, and with the approximately 400 that the otter ate, we estimate there were 7363 smolts and fry in the migration out of Shelly Creek into the Englishman River, with the smolts continuing on to the ocean. We also counted the most trout ever for the smolt trap: 296 of which 51 were identified as Cutthroat.

How does this compare to other years?          

























2017 had very low smolt numbers because an  extremely wet spring caused the creek level to rise high enough to bypass the trap. Depsite the bypass, we still captured the most trout  since the smolt trap count was initiated in 2011. We think the reason for the increase in trout in 2017 and 2018 may be due to the removal of yellow iris (an invasive species) which had taken up a great deal of habitat space in Martindale Pond. With the iris gone, the amount of open water habitat has increased significantly.

Many thanks to our volunteers for making 2018 the best year yet for the smolt trap count!