Giving Back-Broodstock Collection
By Oliver G.
At Bent Rods we believe that giving back to the resources that we partake in is as important as getting outside to enjoy them which is why we volunteer hundreds of hours every year to various organizations in the Fraser Valley Such as the Greater Georgia Basin Steelhead Recovery Plan (GGBSRP), Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO),Freshwater Fisheries Society (FFS) and the Ministry of Environment (MOE).
Most of our hours are accumulated during the winter months when we collect wild winter steelhead brood stock for the Chehalis river. This is a labour intensive procedure which usually involves hiking into the canyon holes, hooking and landing a wild steelhead as quickly as possible and carefully placing them into a rubber holding tube which is then secured in the calm shoreline waters of the river. We must then hike back out of the canyon and return to the hatchery where one fo the employees is notified and we return back to the river in a pickup truck which is equipped with a special tank to hold fish and a water tight back pack to hike the fish from the river to the truck.
The pack is filled with enough water to cover the top third of the fish (head to start of dorsal fin) and the rubber holding tube is placed in the back pack. As quickly as possible the fish is then hiked up the cliffs to the truck, taken out of the holding tube and placed into the tank in the truck. Time is of the essence in these scenarios and canyon holes that may take 15-20 minutes to while going fishing are compressed into under 10 minutes when leaving with a fish in the pack.
The journey continues for the steelhead as we return to the hatchery with them and they are placed in holding tanks until a worker from the Abbotsford Trout Hatchery (FFS) comes to pick up the fish. The steelhead are then held in holding tanks in Abbotsford until they are ripe at which time they are spawned in the hatchery and the eggs are held for several months until the young fry are big enough to be moved back to the Chehalis Hatchery to finish off the fry-to-smolt process.
The smolts are released after approximately one year where they head off down the Chehalis river, into the Harrison river, continuing down into the Fraser river and then into the ocean where they will grow for one to 3 years until returning from December to April when they will return back to the Chehalis river to either spawn in the wild, return to the Chehalis hatchery or be caught and retained along the way by some lucky anger to be released back into the river or possibly for a prime steelhead dinner.