On September 29th lots of folks braved the cold weather and threat of rain to “migrate” to Snoolti Hatchery for the semi-annual Coho Festival jointly hosted by the Central Coast Fisherman’s Protective Association and DFO staff.
Participants could enjoy a delicious lunch of BBQ’d troll caught coho donated by CCFPA member and fisherman Croydon Lansdowne and take in the many fishy activities offered. There were informational displays by the Bella Coola Watershed Conservation Society (BCWCS)and BC Parks plus games for small fry and adults alike. Everyone got 3 spins on the WHEEL OF DEATH salmon survival game that illustrates the challenges of survival for pacific salmon and then could “Eggstimate” of the number eggs in a dish with each game awarding a prize for the lucky winner (or survivor…).
The pre-festival coloring contest posters were displayed on the freezer building wall for all to admire and though judging was difficult, the prize winners were: Fry (age 4-6), 1st Shaylan Moody, 2nd Sage Gray and 3rd Morgan Boileau; Fingerling (age 7-9), 1st Torger Mathews, 2nd Ross King and 3rd Elsie Carlson; Smolt (age 10-12), 1st Haydan Nygarrd, 2nd Byron Knox and 3rd Kai Gunderson.
For little fisher folk there was the “FISHIN POND” where every “cast” was a lucky one. The more avid sport fishers tried their hand at the FISH ON simulator where through a video activated controller hooked to a fishing rod, they could hook and play a coho salmon as seen on a TV screen and get scored. The top fisher of the day was Aaron Schieck with 2075 points. Aaron took home a lucky fishing hat and a couple of Kitamat Lures (barbless of course) to use on real coho right here on the Bella Coola River!
Everyone on hand took an interest in the Chinook salmon eggtake demonstration by Haakon Hammer, Marshall Hans (Snootli Hatchery staff) and Croydon Lansdowne (CCFPA) and Kaila Willis (a very able volunteer using her skills from several years as a summer student at Snootli Hatchery!). The eggtake is a perfect tool for folks to learn about the physiology and life cycle of salmon and a great opportunity for some “small fry” to fertilize the eggs by mixing eggs and sperm together. They know that “their” eggs will become fry in late February or early March of next year. The crowd was quite impressed with the fact that each of the Chinook salmon females had approximately 5,000 eggs and that it takes only a couple of drops of sperm to fertilize them all.
As always at the Coho Festival there was a Leaky Wader Fisherman’s Relay and this year we had four enthusiastic teams. The relay had four parts that included getting geared up in rather oversized waders, wading belts, fishing vests and lucky hats to go catch “fish”, then transport fertilization eggs and put them in “incubators”. While eggs were incubating, the next station involved sorting out a bag of letters to make a name of a local stream (very impressive how the teams came up with Nuxalk and Snooka!). The final station was heading back to the egg incubator to “shock” eggs, pick out the “dead” and count the ”live”. It was such a close race that the “US” team won top spot by only 1 point! They are in the photo with the cook shades and fuzzy friend prize.
The finale of the Coho Festival is the Merganzer “Eggs”travaganzer Duck Race held just above the Snootli Creek Bridge. A tote of numbered ducks is “released” upstream and race fans get to see how river hydrology can mess up a sizable lead and the winner cannot be determined until the finishing line. Congratulations to lucky ducks, Morgan Boileau, Vera Robson and Gary Radstack who took home prizes of a Fishing Rod and Reel combo, Wind Chime and Multitool knife set.
The CCFPA want to let folks know that any proceeds from the fund raising activities go to local Coho salmon enhancement and assessment work. It is not widely known that coho enhancement is not funded by DFO and likely would not occur without the involvement of the CCFPA and funds they are able to provide. The group welcome new members so give Shirley Willson, Croydon Lansdowne or Darwin Unrau a call!
Festival organizers would like to thank all the DFO staff, CCFPA & BCWCS members, BC Parks staff and community volunteers who contributed their time and energy to make it such a fun day and to all the community folks and visitors that came by.