salmon spawning

Wilson Creek

Aerial View of Wilson Creek

Aerial View of Wilson Creek

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Maximum estimated returns from 1947 to 2018 (retrieved from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia) of Chum and Coho salmon for Wilson Creek.

The Wilson Creek watershed is partially within the Municipality of Sechelt and adjacent to the much larger Chapman watershed. The creek reaches the Georgia Strait at the Sechelt First Nation’s Tsawcome reserve. Its estuary was once also the outlet of Chapman Creek. Wilson Creek is considered to have very high fisheries values with 3.5 kilometers of salmon spawning reach and more than 16 kilometers of fish bearing habitat in the main stem alone. The creek supports spawning Chum and Coho. It has traditionally hosted Steelhead and significant populations of both sea-run and residential Cutthroat trout. Wilson Creek is used by the DFO as a reference stream for estimating Coho returns in the Georgia Strait.

The Wilson watershed is relatively stable and gently sloped but highly problematic; the estuary has been degraded, residential and agricultural uses have compromised the lower spawning reaches while crown and private managed forest land logging has radically altered the watershed’s forest cover and hydrology. Numerous logging roads traverse the slopes sometimes moving water to adjacent watersheds and sometimes bringing water in. There is very little old growth left and younger age classes dominate throughout.

The history of escapements appears to indicate that the watershed functions far below its potential for fisheries. The peak year on record was in 1948; 750 Coho and 750 Chum returned. A more recent peak year was 1984; 200 Coho and 500 Chum returned. The last official data from DFO archives shows that 30 Coho, 150 Chum and no Steelhead returned in 1989. Sources indicate that recent returns have remained “flat”.

Wilson Creek was the first stream on the Sunshine Coast to have a hatchery (1982). It was managed by the late John Hind-Smith for the Sechelt Rod and Gun Club. There were various stocking efforts during the 1990s. Some backwater channels for over-wintering Coho were established in 2004. The Ministry of Forests halted crown land logging in 2002, pending completion of a coastal watershed assessment. The Sechelt Community Forest is the current tenure holder of the crown land in this watershed and they have recently completed a detailed watershed assessment (see Private managed forestland owners have no obligations related to the state of the fishery or the overall condition of the watershed.

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