The largest sockeye salmon
run in the world.
The fish make a four year journey starting in Adam's River, near Kamloops, as eggs and small fry and then move to the Shuswap Lake for one year as fingerlings. After a trip down the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, they spend their remaining time in ocean waters between Japan and Alaska. Their return voyage takes them by way of the commercial fishing sites off the south shore of Alaska and the coastline of British Columbia. Those that survive their ocean and inland passage journey return via the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and spawn here four years later, completing their life cycle.
Every fourth year (2002, 2006...) during September and October, the quiet banks of the Adams River 405 km (251 miles) inland from the Pacific Ocean, becomes an orgy of reproduction and death.
Sockeye salmon return to the Adams River every year. But the migration that occurs every fourth year dwarfs the others, reaching as high as 2.6 million sockeye in 1990. In 2002, the number of salmon reached an amazing high over a near 4 million salmon.
In these peaceful, colourful days of early fall, the normally quiet waters of the 12-km (7.2-mile) river turn turbulent and crimson as over two million sockeye salmon - fish returning from a life's journey that takes them far out into the ocean - pour into their home waters to spawn and to die.
As the fish swim upstream, they change colour from the usual silvery-grey to a bright and stunning red, with a green head and green tail. Mature females returning to spawn, dig a nest, called a redd, in the gravel. Here they deposit up to 6,000 eggs. The average is between 2,500 - 3,000. The eggs are immediately fertilized by the male salmon. The eggs are then covered with gravel by the female for protection.
The eggs incubate over the winter and the newly hatched salmon, called alevins, are born with a yolk sac attached to the underside of the body from which they receive nourishment until, in the spring, the yolk sac has been absorbed and the miniatue salmon emerge from the gravel as fry.
These fry then feed on nurtients in the water deposited by their decomposing parents. Enviable little bastards, aren't they?
And every fourth year, as the fish migrate to Adam's River, so do the tourists. We come in droves to see either millions of red fishies doing the fish-nasty, or thousands of dead fishies stinking up the air and lining the beach and hundreds of live fishies doing the fish-nasty amongst all the dead members of their generation. I personally find the whole thing rather appalling.