While everyone’s heard of the famed Adams River Sockeye Salmon, few have ever heard of, or seen, their lesser known brethren, the Louis Creek Coho. Each fall, roughly 1,000 Interior Fraser Coho make their way from the Pacific Ocean to the small eddies and pools of Louis Creek which starts in a farmer’s field near Whitecroft, just below Sun Peaks and meanders down to the mighty North Thompson River near Barriere.
Considered a “stock of concern” by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) there’s a significant behind the scenes effort to ensure their survival. Each fall, teams of DFO staff catch, tag and release adult Coho at the confluence of Louis Creek and the North Thompson River, in an effort to assess the numbers of fish returning to the system. The fish are tagged just behind the dorsal fin, with a small blue plastic tag called a Peterson Tag. This tag allows researchers to not only document fish numbers coming out of the Thompson River, but also to do fish counts easily, while walking the upper reaches of Louis Creek.
Unlike the Adams River Sockeye which spawns en-masse in large river channels, the Interior Fraser Coho are known to spawn in small creeks and tributaries with lots of cover making them notoriously hard to count. The Peterson Tagging allows the DFO to calculate approximate numbers of fish in the creek system each year.
Mike Chamberlain from the Kamloops DFO says that while the run of around 1,000 fish per year up Louis Creek is the 10 year average, the Interior Fraser Coho, as a species, needs close monitoring to ensure continued survival. The DFO uses coded wire nose tags placed in smolts (baby salmon) from the Dunn Creek hatchery, to study both fresh water and marine survival of the stocks, in addition to the Peterson Tag program used on the returning adults. The Louis Creek Cohos are a three year strain of salmon spending half their life in fresh water and half in the Pacific Ocean before returning to spawn and die.
Pat Wellington, a local fishing enthusiast from Whitecroft, marvels in the Coho’s return each season as these hardy fish make their way from the Pacific.
“What fascinates me is how far they come and that we’re the end of the line for these fish. They spawn right here in our backyard in Whitecroft after all that travel. They come all the way from the ocean and still have the strength to even make it up to the base of the Whitecroft waterfall, it’s truly amazing.”