When you hear the world “Salmon”, what’s the first thing come up in your mind? Sashimi? Smoked salmon? How much do you know about salmon besides the dishes? Well this year is one of the best times to see the salmon run in British Columbia as 34 million fish was expected to return to the river. It breaks the record since sockeye came back in bigger numbers than anyone had seen in almost 100 years!
Let’s learn more about salmon before I describe my amazing trip:
There are 5 species of Pacific salmon: Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye.
Life Cycle of Pacific Salmon – eggs -> alevin -> fry -> smolts -> adult -> spawners
In fall and winter, salmon eggs develop slowly in interior rivers. In spring, eggs hatch to produce alevins with large yolk sacs below their bellies. They grow under the gravel and the yolk sac contains all the nutrients they require for growth. In May, alevins lose their yolk sacs and emerge above the gravel as salmon fry. They can now leave the spawning channel and swim to a lake. Next spring they migrate to the sea as silver smolts and will remain there for two and a half years.
At four years of age, they become mature adults and return to their native waters to spawn. They stop eating once they enter fresh water. They struggle for weeks against rapids, falls, obstructions such as fallen logs and rocks until they reach the waters of the spawning river where they were born. Now they are called spawners and they will find their partners to spawn. Salmon die after spawning activity is completed.
How can they find the rivers where they were born after years of life in the sea?
Maybe their highly developed sense of smell gives them the ability to work out direction from different areas.
How is salmon different from other kinds of fish?
Most of the world’s fish either live in fresh or salt water. But salmon live in both salt and fresh water. They are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean and then return to fresh water to spawn.
Get back to my exciting trip. It was on Oct 22 and we had to get on the tour bus at 7 am. I was going with my Japanese friend. It was a Chinese tour though so I had to translate what the tour guide said in English through the whole trip … what a challenged task! I got up at 5:30 am when the sky was still dark. I was about to leave home at 6:10 am for the public transit to Yaohan Centre then my lovely brother said he would offer me a ride. So I left home at 6:40 and my friend called me when I was on the way to Yaohan Centre. I was still a bit sleepy until he told me he was there but could not see anybody or tour bus. WHAT!!! How could this be happened? I expected some people and tour bus to be arrived since it would be departed on time.
I finally got to Yaohan at 6:50 am. No tour bus. I only saw three ladies so I asked one of them if they were going to see salmon run. She replied yes but she didn’t know which travel company she’s joining. Really? Well what else I could do except waiting. More and more people arrived Yaohan. I bet they must be for the salmon run tour since all the stores were not open. Finally a huge tour bus came! The driver got off and yelled “XX (name of tour company) group come over here!” I couldn’t hear the name of his tour company but there’s no other tour bus so I followed him. He called out the names but we were not on the list. I checked with two other ladies and they told me they joined super vacation (美亞). That must be correct since we also joined super vacation. How come only four of us (the two ladies, my Japanese friend and me) not being called? Oh, the driver said this is for 夢幻. Ah … where’s our tour bus??? Then we saw a small bus (more like a mini van with 20 seats) came and it was美亞. Holy! I was expecting a big bus so it was a bit disappointed to see a small one.
We got on our tour bus and played musical chair for a few minutes before the driver drove to other pickup locations. I looked out from the window and it was still dark and rain. I was a bit worried about the weather … shouldn’t it be fine since I prayed for no rain at International Buddhist Temple? The tour bus travelled to Sexsmith Park and Ride, Burnaby and Coquitlam to pickup other passengers. The bus was full once all passengers were boarded – 2 seniors, some middle age people, young adults (including us!), a teenager and 3 kids (it was Friday but they had no school since it was professional development day).
The first destination was Inch Creek Hatchery at east of Mission where mainly produces and raises salmon including Coho, Chinook, and Chum. I believe the ones I saw were either salmon fry or smolts.
We arrived the hatchery around 9:15. Yeah! We were the first tour to be there!!! The driver who also acted as tour guide informed us to visit its washroom first. Why? Because there would be long line up for washroom once other tours came. I believe it’s true since my colleague has been there and told me that she saw at least 40 people lining up for lady’s washroom which means it took more than half an hour for toilet!
Originally the driver asked men going to men washroom and women to women washroom. Suddenly he changed his plan telling all ladies share the men and women washrooms while all guys to follow him to another location … hopefully not the bushes. My friend couldn’t understand what the driver said so he was the only guy lining up with all the ladies until I told him to follow the driver.
The Inch Creek Hatchery has two huge white sturgeon (鱘龍魚) – both have been there since 1989, the largest one (also less active one due to its age I think) is 80 years old, 7.5 feet and around 200 pounds. Wow … very heavy though!
This is the older and bigger sturgeon but he didn't move at all! To see him swimming, check: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSCo5xYeL0U
Now the weather was getting better with no rain. We were heading to the second destination - Weaver Creek Spawning Channel in Agassiz Our bus arrived at 10:15 am and again the first tour reached the site! We were allowed to walk around for 1 ½ hours.
What is Weaver Creek Spawning Channel?
In Chinese, it is 人工規劃出來的鮭魚洄游渠道，政府有計畫地利用河道，好維持鮭魚品種的繁殖比率。
From 1943-1959, about 20,000 sockeye salmon spawned in Weaver Creek each year. The number declined to 12,000 sockeye annually in 1960-1968. It was caused by the destruction of the spawning grounds due to flooding.
Before 1960, an average of 94,000 sockeye were taken every year. But the commercial catch decreased to 24,000 per year in 1960-1968.
In order to solve this problem, an artificial spawning channel was built beside Weaver Creek in 1965. This channel is a 2,932 metres long shallow stream with a gravel bottom and sloping sides built up with rocks to allow sockeye, chum and pick salmon deposit their eggs.
Since it was early and not weekend, there were not too many visitors around. My colleague’s family went there on Thanksgiving Day and they saw thousands of visitors there! The area is very spacious so we were free to walk around which I really enjoyed. On the way back to our tour bus at 11:20 am, we saw much more people from other tours going in.
Warning signs with Chinese characters, there must be lots of Chinese tours coming here!
Oct 22, 2010 - 33,619 sockeye and 3487 chum have returned to spawn in the channel.
The very beginning of the spawing channel, the water is very clear and shallow.
Salmon uses all energy to jump up!
The salmon in white are dead and their pigments are gone.
Wow! What a great meal!
Everybody was getting hungry so we were looking forward to lunch. We were told that there is a sushi restaurant owned by Japanese and also a fish and chips restaurant owned by Korean. Obviously Asian loves oriental food better. Once we arrived, quite a few people said “Let’s go for sushi sushi”. 90% of our tour went into the Jap restaurant. I asked my friend to have lunch there also since he is Japanese and it would be fun to see how the owner felt when she saw Japanese among or tour! The restaurant is very small, it was empty and then completely full with our team members. The owner had been very busy serving customers in October so she wasn’t too friendly even my friend spoke to her in Japanese.
Then funny thing happened. Two young ladies came into the restaurant. There were only two seats left at our table hence the owner asked them to share the table with us. Once they ordered food I realized they were Japanese. While we were all waiting for our meals, my friend suddenly talked to the two ladies in Japanese. OH! They were SHOCKED … few seconds after one of them answered. Later my friend told me he said to them “I heard that the owner is Japanese” and the lady replied “I don’t think so” then my friend said “probably she’s born in Canada”. I think the ladies wondered by there was a Japanese guy among the Chinese tour? They may also felt strange seeing my friend and I only shared 8 pieces of BC sushi as lunch! Actually we had some buns and sponge cakes before our lunch so we were not too hungry.
After lunch we walked along the lake where we saw rainbow! See how nice the weather was after the morning shower. We followed the driver to view the mouth of hot springs. The water was very hot there! I could see the smoke from the spring with a strong smell (chlorine?). Based on my research, Harrison Hot Springs have been known as supernatural place by First Nations (aboriginal people) and used by them for healing purposes for a long time before it was discovered by White settlers in 1858 during their trip to/from Cariboo gold fields. Their boat capsized near the bottom of the lake where they discovered the water was not cold but rather warm when they fell out!
Our next destination was a honey farm in Chilliwack. Again we were the first tour of the day to arrive there! The driver said it would be packed of people when other tours came. The owner made a five minute presentation in the field besides the beehive and it was very windy! She first said she would not open the hive since someone got stung by a bee the day before because of the strong wind. Wow … sounds a bit scary! I didn’t want to be attacked by bees!!!
Anyways, here’s the simple story of the honeybee hive. The hive contains 1 queen bee, a few hundreds of male drone bees and 30,000 female worker bees:
– only mates with drones & lays eggs
– lays 500-2000 eggs daily
– about 5 years life span
Drone Bees (Lazy Boys)
– not doing anything except mating with the queen
– about 90 days life span
Worker Bees (Hard-Working Girls)
– live up to 6 weeks
– cleaning cells & keeping brood warm, feeding larvae, producing wax, building combs, transporting food within the hive, guarding hive entrance, pollinating flowers and collecting pollens, nectar, propolis & water
Interesting fact about sex determination in honeybees:
Honeybee sex is determined by the fertilization and non-fertilization of eggs (not by the presence or absence of X or Y sex chromosomes). Honeybee eggs hatch even if they have not been fertilized. Fertilized eggs develop into female worker bees, unfertilized eggs develop into male drone bees. The queen bee is selected by worker bees. Its larva is fed with abundant amount of royal jelly to become reproductive female adult when the existing queen is not performing well, getting old or dying. The drone and worker larvae are fed with royal jelly only for a few days while queen larvae fed with royal jelly continuously throughout their development.
Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey Ltd sells different flavour of honey. For example, when the hive is moved to blackberry, bees pollinate blackberry bushes and produce blackberry honey. So the honey they have include fireweed honey, wildflower honey, blackberry honey, raspberry blueberry honey, maple honey, thistle honey, mountain honey (from pine or alpine trees) and creamed wildflower honey (liquid wildflower honey mixed with creamed sweet clover).
They let us try the honey samples and they claim that their honey is 100% natural and unpasteurized. They also sell other products such as bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, skin care products, shampoo & conditioner, pure beeswax candles, gift baskets. The driver said their propolis cream is very good for minor burns (even better than 京萬紅 – Jing Wan Hong). I should have purchased one to try but I didn’t … too bad.
The final destination was Apple Barn in Abbotsford. It had U-pick apples which would be very fun since I’ve never tried it before! $7 per bag with lots of applies! What!!! Sold out, not available. It’s very disappointed. We were told that lots of Chinese came a week before us grabbed all the apples, some bit the apples and threw them on the ground. What a shame! Anyways we still had a good time in the barn with pumpkins and animals. We saw lots of kids in the barn since it’s Pro-D Day, no school! Yeah! Some people in our tour bought veggies and apple cider from the barn.
This is the old fashioned apple sorter built in the 50's
The U-pick apple farm with lots of apples (bitten ones?) on the ground, what a waste!
When we left the barn, I saw other tour buses arriving. One of them was also “Super Vacation”. Now I understand why our tour bus was a mini one. Instead of having one big bus to pickup the passengers at all locations. They had two buses (one travel from Richmond, Burnaby and Coquitlam, one from Vancouver and Surrey) to divide the jobs. By doing so, they could save the travelling time. No wonder we were always the first team for the attractions!
We headed back to Lower Mainland around 4:00 pm. The traffic wasn’t too bad, we arrived Richmond before 6:30 pm. I was very glad that the weather had been nice throughout the day except early morning.