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Locals watch spawning run

by Don Plant
The Daily Courier
September 27, 1993

More than 1,000 children, parents and grandparents took advantage of a sunny fall day to learn about spawning kokanee on Sunday.

About 250,000 of the landlocked salmon, colourful cousins of Pacific Coast salmon, are now filling creeks throughout the Okanagan Lake system. And a large proportion of them began the arduous journey up Mission Creek’s spawning channel two weeks ago.

“After they spawn, the 100,000 or so expected to make the run up Mission Creek, will die.

Because the run is approaching its peak, fish and games clubs set aside Sunday as Fisheries Awareness Day, when experts rolled in displays and interpreted the strange phenomenon known as the annual kokanee run.

“People don’t often get to see the spawning process,” says Brian Jantz, a fisheries technician who demonstrated egg fertilization several times Sunday. “They don’t have an appreciation for eggs and how fragile and important they are.”

Jantz demonstrated the miracle of fertilization before 80 people by rubbing the bell of a female caught Sunday morning and forcing about 20 eggs into a small pail.

“When eggs come out of a fish, they’re soft, sticky and fragile,” he explains over a microphone. “When the female deposits them, she’ll hang around the rocks and give a swirling motion, which attracts the sperm to the eggs.”

Jantz then picked up a male and rubbed its belly, forcing the milt (sperm) into the same pail. The eggs were fertilized almost instantly.

After people get a look at the orange eggs close up, Jantz takes a two-metre rubber tube and shoves one end deep into the gravel bed of the spawning channel.

He then pours the eggs down the high end of the tube so they drop into the gravel, just as they would if laid naturally.

The demonstration is important, he says later, because the more aware people become, the more care they’ll take of wildlife and habitat.

Across the blue bridge toward Springfield Road, kids clambered inside a hollow 13-metre (40 foot) fibreglass salmon.

They love it,” says Patty Gunning, who volunteers for a non-profit environmental group from Washington called Wild Olympic Salmon. “Kids get a sense of security and hope when they see adults who care about the environment.”

Meanwhile, Jantz expects 7,000 local students to visit Mission Creek, Coldstream Creek in Vernon and Deep Creek in Peachland during the next two weeks.