It’s salmon spawning season on Vancouver Island. With the changing of seasons marks the return of once-tadpoles to the streams where life began for them. From September until early December, you can bear witness to one of the most exciting natural phenomenons of the year across the Island.
About Salmon Spawning on Vancouver Island
While different species spawn at different times of the year, Fall is one of the most popular and easily accessible times to view it. Salmon spend most of their time developing in small rivers and streams before heading out to sea, where they mature and spend the majority of their lives. Later, they return to the same river where they were born to lay or fertilize eggs of their own. After creating the next generation of salmon, they pass away and their bodies become part of the circle of life.
Getting to their original stream, however, is no easy task. First, they must overcome several obstacles, fighting their way against the currents, through natural barriers, and evading predators.
Between the months of September to November and into early December, you can witness this journey first-hand at streams and rivers across the Island.
Here are the 5 most popular places to see salmon spawning on Vancouver Island:
Goldstream Provincial Park
Only 25 minutes from downtown Victoria is Goldstream Provincial Park, where the Goldstream River meets the Saanich Inlet. Goldstream River is home to one of the richest salmon spawning locations on Vancouver Island, with species including Chum, Coho and Chinook.
Access to the river at Goldstream Provincial Park is only a short trek away from the main parking lot on the northbound side of the highway. While there is parking available on both sides of the road, visitors should know that there’s no safe pedestrian access across the highway, so it’s strongly encouraged to park at the main lot. From there, you can walk so we recommend starting your visit at the Nature House, situated on the east side of the highway. Park in the day use visitors area and walk 10 minutes down the Visitors Centre Trail.
While you’re here, you might want to embark on one of the many trail hikes in the area, ranging from easier wheelchair accessible trails to more rugged, steep terrain.
Stamp River Provincial Park
In the Central Island, you can see the salmon in Port Alberni at the Stamp River Provincial Park. Only 30 minutes northwest of Port Alberni, this park is home to beautiful Stamp Falls with a lush landscape and roaring river rapids. Near the entrance to the park is a fish ladder to help make the journey easier for salmon.
You can catch Coho salmon spawning in August and October and Chinook spawning in September and October. Gather at the pool of Stamp Falls to see the fish circling before fighting their way up the falls, or find a lookout spot along the river to watch the fish make their way up the river to their spawning beds.
Before heading home, stop at the Alberni Harbour Quay in downtown Port Alberni for a selection of waterfront shops and eateries — the donut shop is a must! Or if you want to learn more about the maritime history of the Alberni Valley and west coast, check out the Maritime Discovery Centre.
What Know Before You Go
Remember, salmon spawning is not only for spectators, it’s also one of the most important times of the year for bears to stock up on nutrients before the winter ahead. Anytime you’re heading into the wilderness, always prepared and practice safe outdoor behaviours. If you see a bear, remain calm, stay still and do not run. Get your bear deterrent ready and back away slowly without turning your back.
Additionally, the weather on Vancouver Island can be unpredictable so make sure you dress appropriately. Most of the salmon spawning destinations are easily accessible by well-maintained trails, but proper footwear and a warm raincoat can ensure your salmon spawning experience can be enjoyed to the fullest.
Lastly, try to avoid wearing brightly coloured clothing, such as reds, pinks and purples, as it can cause undue stress on the salmon if they spot you. Keep pets on a leash at all times and, if possible, find a higher location for the best view so they’re not tempted to hop in the water.
For more tips and recommendations for how to be best prepared in the outdoors, check out AdventureSmart.ca.