Steelhead trout smolts head into the Chilliwack/Vedder River by the thousands near Peach Park on April 29, 2020 as the annual spring stocking of the river gets underway by Freshwater Fisheries of BC personnel. (Mike Vanden Bosch photo)

VIDEO: Steelhead smolts hit the river as spring stocking gets underway in Chilliwack

Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC releases trout smolts into the lower Chilliwack-Vedder River

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC just released thousands of steelhead smolts into the lower part of the Chilliwack/Vedder River to the delight of onlookers.

People walking by were surprised as a large truck pulled up to a spot just west of Peach Park with a tank full of fish on-board from the nearby hatchery.

Mike Vanden Bosch said when he snapped a photo of the fish stocking activity, he was by the river with his two daughters, Sophie and Selah.

They watched with delight as fisheries society staff hooked up a big, flexible hose from the truck, and fish poured into the river by the thousands.

“My daughters just loved it,” Vanden Bosch said. “They were shrieking with joy.”

“Smolting” is what they do every spring, usually the first week of May, as smolts are hauled by fisheries society staff in a large tank from the Chilliwack Hatchery to stock the river.

“The goal of stocking the Chilliwack/Vedder River is to provide recreational anglers the opportunity to catch and harvest a hatchery steelhead identified with a missing adipose fin,” said Dean Worrall, assistant hatchery manager for Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.

There is no retention permitted for any wild steelhead however anywhere in B.C. The Chilliwack/Vedder River is the most heavily fished stream in the entire Lower Mainland for steelhead.

The trout with the missing adipose fin will migrate to the ocean where they’ll mature for two years before returning to the Chilliwack River as maturing adults.

“The number of adults returning to the Chilliwack/Vedder is very dependent on several factors such as ocean survival, predation by birds, ducks, seals and sea lions to name a few, interceptions by net fisheries in the ocean and rivers, and of course the ever changing environmental conditions,” said Worrall.

The Steelhead Program on the Chilliwack/Vedder River is the largest steelhead program in the Lower Mainland, Worrall pointed out. Wild brood stock are captured primarily by volunteer anglers with permits, the target number of wild adult pairs is 30.

From these wild pairings, 125,000 smolts are produced at the Chilliwack River Hatchery. These smolts are all adipose clipped, the little fin on top of the fish between the dorsal fin and the tail is clipped off when they are approximately three to five grams. These fish are then reared for approximately a year at the Chilliwack Hatchery until they are smolts, this means the fish become very silvery and are ready to make their journey downstream to the ocean, at this time they will be somewhere between 50 to 100 grams.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC is also involved with steelhead programs on the Chehalis River, South Alouette River, Stave River, and Little Campbell River.

READ MORE: Angling closed in 2018 due to low steelhead returns

READ MORE: Work at Big Bar ahead of steelhead, salmon migration

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