Lucas Holdt never imagined he would be able to fish salmon at the mouth of Millstone River downtown, under the Pearson Bridge, when he was growing up in Nanaimo.
But, after watching anglers trying their luck to catch some pink salmon at the location a few days ago, the pipe fitter who is currently working in Fort. St. John was casting his line under the bridge Monday morning.
He wasn't having much luck however, and fellow fisherman Brad Canaday, who has also unsuccessfully fished six times in the Millstone over the past few days, said that the thousands of pink salmon that swarm into Nanaimo's waterways to spawn at this time of year appear to be later than usual this season.
He attributed it to the unusually hot and dry and summer the region has experienced which he claimed has impacted the pink salmon's usual spawning cycle.
Brian Banks, co-manager of the Nanaimo River Hatchery, said pink salmon numbers typically reach their peak in local waters in mid-September and he still expects approximately 60,000 of the species to return over the next few weeks at the mouth of the Millstone River, Departure Bay and the Nanaimo River.
It's a spawning run that has been revitalized over the past decade by efforts of the hatchery, the Department of Fisheries Canada and local organizations.
"We know pink salmon are now showing up on the north Island and we expect a strong season locally, although they seem to be staying out longer than usual this year," Banks said.
"The lack of rain recently could be playing a part as the rivers are low, but we're still expecting high numbers in the coming weeks."
Pink salmon had been virtually extinct in Nanaimo's harbour and Departure Bay since the 1950s, largely due to over fishing, until DFO began reintroducing the species into local waters in 2001 along with its partners, including the Nanaimo and District Fish and Game Protective Association.
The program has proven very successful, and fishers have begun gathering along Nanaimo's urban streams and rivers in recent years in the late summer to try their luck.
"I never dreamed that I would be able to fish salmon in the Millstone River right next to the bridge," Holdt said.
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