Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Powell River Salmon Society, volunteers undertake fish clipping

60,000 coho fry marked during three-day operation in the qathet region

An estimated 60,000 of the nearly 300,000 coho salmon hatched this year by Powell River Salmon Society have had their adipose fins clipped.

In a massive undertaking, a group of volunteers, and some Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff, armed with tiny scissors and dealing with numb hands from immersion in chilly water, spent three days at the former Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill site in the qathet region removing fins from two-and-a-half-month-old coho fry.

Salmon society manager Shane Dobler said the collaboration came about because Fisheries and Oceans Canada wants to manage a resource with clipped fish and for years has been pushing at sport fishery meetings for the local society to clip some of its salmon. Dobler said the society is not in a position to fundraise for that because it already fundraises for food for the fish and many other functions.

“If you want to manage something with clipping, I’m of the opinion that the government should fund it from the licences for fishers,” said Dobler. “We respect all fishers’ opportunity and that is what this is really about.

“I appreciate all the people standing at the table removing fins. For a few days we did more than 60,000 and fisheries and oceans matched with employees, sending some over to show a sign of support. We produced quite a few fish, in this case, with a collaboration between fisheries, a couple of our directors and some great volunteers.”

Dobler recognized Powell River Outdoors owner Sam Sansalone for taking the bull by the horns.

“It was kind of floundering in terms of being organized and Sam voluntarily organized it, doing a heck of a job,” said Dobler. “The objective was to see how many coho we could do. Clipping 60,000 out of 300,000 isn’t bad and it gives an idea of what it would take to do the rest.

“Having crew changes part way through the day, with shifts in the morning and the afternoon, certainly helped, because it is painful work.”

Dobler said there is technology available to undertake the clipping but the machines are very expensive.

“Our government has a couple but everyone needs them at the same time,” said Dobler. “They usually go to the bigger government hatcheries, so I don’t see us getting one anytime soon. You start crossing your eyes when you are looking for that fin.”

Salmon stocking

Dobler said the salmon society is now stocking Haslam Lake with the fish and there are now some clipped fish out there for future opportunities. He is hoping the federal fisheries and oceans department opens angling opportunities for coho that are clipped because in seasons past, they have been closed in this fisheries area.

“It would be a disgrace to have people volunteer their time for what is an opportunity,” said Dobler. “It’s not our area managing the fish stock. We create the opportunity and fishers are hoping for the opportunity for local catch and retention. There’s clipped fish out there and it’s closed.”

Dobler said he hopes sportfishing representatives approach the fisheries department and advocate for clipped fish retention. He said he wants people to have the opportunity to catch and retain coho salmon.

This past year, the salmon society had a good return of coho, according to Dobler.

“We’re wondering what will happen this year,” said Dobler. “We don’t like to predict, and if we do, it usually doesn’t work out. We made big predictions on chinook last year and it was a terrible year.”

Labour intensive

Salmon society president Rod Tysdal said clipping of fish has been done here in the past but not in large numbers. He said even with an ambitious program such as this year’s, the lion’s share of the fish are not being clipped.

“To do a full clipping of all our hatchery fish would require a mechanical clipper,” said Tysdal. "They build them but they are $1 million plus. They have to have at least four people operating them. I didn’t find out how many salmon they could clip in a day with a mechanical clipper but it is all automated and computerized.

“There’s at least one on Vancouver Island and I think it can be moved around but it hasn’t been moved here. Clipping by hand is really labour intensive.”

Tysdal said it took three days to clip the 60,000 fish, so if there are a million fish, it is going to take quite a few days to clip them all.

Anglers identifying clipped fish out on the ocean have at times been able to retain them. Wild-caught salmon with their adipose fin intact now have to be returned to the ocean. Tysdal said a lot more needs to be done for clipped adipose fins to be effective to be used as a management tool.

Tysdal said he was pleased with the volunteer effort that had been put in clipping fish. He said it’s indicative of the kind of support in the community for the salmon society.

“We’re really buoyed by the volunteers who came out,” added Tysdal. “That was super.”

He took a shift at the clipping bench and said it was his first experience.

“I’d never seen it done before,” he said, “so it was all new to me.”

Join the Peak's email list for the top headlines right in your inbox Monday to Friday.