Salmon Life Journey . . .
The Quesnel Lake Watershed has one of the largest
Sockeye salmon runs in British Columbia. We are
blessed to be able to bear witness every fall to
this amazing journey.
the fall, a female salmon lays from 2,500 to 8,000
eggs. While this may seem like a large number, only
about one in every two to four thousand eggs hatches
a salmon that will reach maturity and return to
its spawning grounds from the ocean. The life journey
of a salmon is a harsh one.
a fry is hatched, it can take as long as three years
for the salmon (now called a smolt) to make it to
the ocean. Depending on the species of salmon, the
fish will spend from two to five years in the saltwater
environment before it returns to its natal stream
fish are able to find their way back to their home
through a process called imprinting. As the fry
are on their way to the ocean, they record (imprint)
all the odors and smells of their river journey.
When they return from the ocean, they, in a sense,
rewind the smells like a movie to retrace their
original route. The salmon become battered and exhausted
as they fight their way home and, as a result, often
become an easy meal for the ever-opportunistic bears.
salmon spawn in autumn in freshwater streams and
lakes. The eggs are left under the gravel of the
river or lake bottom for the winter and then hatch
in the spring. Newly hatched salmon, called fry,
slowly make their way to the ocean, which is where
they do most of their growing. Their years growing
in the open ocean are filled with many dangers and
hazards, such as fishing nets, killer whales, seals
a few years in the ocean, the salmon are big enough
to spawn, so they return to their birth river system.
They are able to locate their birthplace by smell.
Now they must face the challenges of waterfalls
and awaiting bears as they fight their way to the
the bears catch some salmon before they spawn; but
once spawned out, the dying salmon are easy prey.
Bears have been observed swimming and fishing underwater.
Bears often gather below waterfalls to catch salmon;
the fish are forced to slow down as they try to
jump the falls. Often a leaping salmon is grabbed
by a bear and becomes part of its dinner. Sometimes
the bear will carry this nourishing and rich meal
into the forest to a safe place, away from larger
bears who may want the food themselves. The remains
of these rotting fish in the forest nourish the
plants and insects. In streams the dead fish provide
food for the new salmon fry.