I have an admitted bias towards all things salmon, so it’s of little surprise that the release of the final 60,000 Wannock River Chinook fry from the Percy Walkus Hatchery was a highlight of this young summer.
After a few days fishing out of Duncanby Lodge, I had the good fortune to travel down to Wuikinuxv Village at the head of Rivers Inlet. There were a couple of hatchery workers, the Keay Family from Duncanby and a few Duncanby guides, all gathered to get the job done!
Now I’ve also been an incredibly fortunate member of the Percy Walkus Hatchery team for the past five years, toiling on the egg take each October and helping out with fundraisers. So the chance to see the fry release in the fabled Wannock River was super cool. Close to the heart stuff.
Each fall, approximately 300,000 Wannock Chinook eggs are fertilized in hatchery trays and reared in pens. It was cool to see the thousands upon thousands of fry… each with the potential to grow up into a legendary Wannock Chinook, perhaps the largest Chinook left on Earth. It was also fantastic to witness the passion of Sid and Leigh Keay and their commitment to Percy Walkus Hatchery.
Deep in the heart of Wuikinuxv Traditional Territory in the Great Bear Rainforest, I was getting the privileged opportunity to witness the release of these amazing fish. And make no mistake about it, Wannock River Chinook are the heartbeat of the Great Bear. So the salmon release spectacle is the final step in a circle of life that nourishes everything from tall trees to grizzly bears and killer whales.
The sunny summertime June afternoon on the Wannock River was graced by Wuikinuxv Hereditary Chief George Johnson. In ceremonial dress, Johnson said a prayer in Wuikinuxv, sprinkled eagle feathers and helped send the prized salmon on their incredible journey.
I hope five or six years from now I’m fortunate enough to catch one of these giant Chinook salmon at the Percy Walkus Hatchery egg take.
There’s a deep connection between all living things, land and sea in Great Bear Rainforest. And watching the multitude of Wannock fry swim away makes one understand… just how deep that connection remains.
By Tim Milne