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Chum is the largest salmon species that spawns on Bowen Island. Individual fish are typically in the 4 to 6 kg range as returning adults. Adult chum spend about four years fattening up at sea before returning to the stream where they were born to mate and die. Wildlife Club volunteers operate the Terminal Creek salmon hatchery and monitor the health of Bowen’s salmon bearing creeks and riparian areas.
Around Remembrance Day, many Bowen Islanders walk down to the spillway at the Causeway that separates the Lagoon from Kwilákm to watch the arrival and spawning of the chum in the gravel spawning beds just inside the Lagoon.
The viewing is easy. The arriving salmon wait for the incoming tide in the ocean waters near the causeway. At high tide they swim up the fish ladder or up the spillway under the bridge.
Many gather over the gravel bar constructed by Bowen’s Fish and Wildlife club just upstream of the bridge, where their spawning activities can be easily seen. Female chum have normal shaped jaws.
Watch how they flick their tails to dig shallow nests called redds in the coarse gravel.
Look for male chum. They have big jaws with large teeth. They use them to fight other males for chances to mate with the females.
Watch the whole mating process filmed by Bob Turner.
Each female chum will have laid thousands of eggs. And like all Pacific salmon, chum males and females die soon after they mate.
The abundant eggs and salmon (both dead and alive) attract all sizes of predators and scavengers.
Watch for harbour seals in Kwilákm close to the Causeway. They come to intercept the salmon before they reach their spawning bed. Sometimes they will swim right into the lagoon to grab spawning salmon on the gravel bar.
Also look for fast swimming river otters who may come to dine on spawning chum.
Chum Salmon Fry Release
Bowen’s population of wild spawning chum salmon is supplemented by hatchery-reared fish raised by volunteers in the Bowen Fish and Wildlife Club working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Terminal Creek Hatchery (see Terminal Creek Fish Hatchery).