It was the start of a long journey for some chum salmon, one that will hopefully see them return to Delta to lay their eggs in three to five years.
On Thursday, April 12, around 10,000 chum smolts were released into Cougar Creek by Grade 4 students at Cougar Canyon Elementary. Each student grabbed buckets of wiggling salmon, gingerly carrying them down the steep slope and dumping them onto a slide that deposited them into the creek.
Organized by the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers for more than a decade, fish releases like this are an important part in rehabilitating the local waterway. Over the course of two days, the streamkeepers and their grade school sidekicks will release 150,000 fish into local creeks.
Although at best only 150 salmon from those releases will return to the stream to spawn, local streamkeeper Pete Willows said it’s an important lesson for the kids who are involved.
“It’s like imprinting for the fish going down, it’s like imprinting for the children,” he said. “When you get them young and … they get out into nature and they release the fish, it just imprints in them that maybe later in life you’ve got a whole group of people coming up that care about what’s happening in the world.”
“Hopefully down the road, instead of three old guys there will be a bunch of younger people and some old guys, building things and creating awareness,” he continued.
The streamkeepers oversaw two releases on Thursday — one with the Cougar Canyon students in the lower part of the creek by Nicholson Road, and one with Surrey’s Cougar Creek students at the pond in Cougar Creek Park off 121 Street.
On Friday, the streamkeepers will be doing three more releases: one at 11 a.m. near the Westview rain garden, one at 12:45 p.m. at Blake Creek and one at 2 p.m. at the Surrey pond.
Aspiring fish releasers are also invited to a city-sponsored fish release at Watershed Park on Sunday, April 15 from noon to 2 p.m., when 25,000 fry will begin their own journeys to the sea.