For over 40 salmon seasons of gillnet fishing on the Fraser River , I enjoyed the “Great Salmon Privilege” of harvesting the very early runs of Fraser Sockeye Salmon ! The F. R. Sockeye Season historically began around JUNE 15 , with incidental catch of a few sockeye tangled in my large mesh Chinook gillnet ! This first run of historic F. R. Sockeye disappeared in the 1950ies , never to been seen again ! Yes the word extinction comes to mind , reasons many fishers at that time did not know that extinction could meant forever !
It was June the 25th 1956 and the F. R. gillnetters were switching now to a smaller mesh Sockeye Net , anticipating the F. R. Early Stuart Lake Sockeye run to be near the mouth of the river , acclimatizing to brackish water and getting ready to start their very long river migration to their spawning grounds , north of Prince George !
To describe Stuart Lake Sockeye in today’s terms , they are really” Historic Computerised Sockeye Salmon” , learning from their parents genes , ever thing they need to make it home to the lake and stream where they were born ! This historic Sockeye Run was once the biggest on the Fraser River , it filled the fishers nets and traps to over flowing ,year after year , in the late 1800 and early 1900 ! So many were caught locally , the canneries some years told their rental gillnet boats to catch no more , when the run was passing by !
The Great Stuart Sockeye Run historically followed the Northern Gulf of Georgia salt water migration route to the mouth of the Fraser River ! By July 5th the sockeye were in great schools all along Bowen Island , that turned the sea into a splashing spectacle , you could smell them in the sea air ! They moved pass Siwash Rock into today’s False Creek , looking for a old historic Fraser River Arm or Channel , that silted in hundreds of years ago !
What happened next , well their “inherited sockeye migration computer” went on a “enter the river now program”! Main Stuart Sockeye run . please historically enter the North Arm , Middle Arm and Main River tonight July 11th . on a evening full moon big flood tide ! Out of the the brown brackish tide line from Sandheads and Point Grey they all came , pushed along side each other, some in spawning pairs , into a dark unknowing river !
What is left of the great run of Fraser River Stuart Lake Sockeye this year in the week of July the 11th , will again pass by False Creek and Spanish Banks and will it be only me that remember them ? Terry Slack