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Chilliwack River Steelhead Brood Collection Program

By Rodney Hsu, Fishing with Rod | Published in January 2012

Volunteer Chilliwack River steelhead broodstock anglers

Starting in mid January each year, a group of steelhead anglers are armed with large rubber tubes while fishing on the Chilliwack River. These volunteers are part of the annual winter steelhead brood collection program on the Chilliwack River.

Each year, a small percentage of the winter steelhead are caught, transported to and held at the Chilliwack River Hatchery where they are spawned. Their offsprings are raised at the facility and released back into the river during May in the following year when they reach 80 to 100 grams. Over 100,000 juvenile fish are marked by the clipping of the adipose fin and a percentage of them return as hatchery marked steelhead that anglers can retain. This program usually aims to capture 35 pairs of wild adult spawners.

The purpose of this program is to sustain a hatchery steelhead fishery that anglers can enjoy while protecting the wild population in this popular river system. Similar programs also take place in other Fraser Valley river systems. These include Chehalis River, Stave River, and Alouette River.

Without dedicated volunteer anglers who spend hours on the river to meet the program's objective, the Chilliwack River would not have this sustainable hatchery steelhead fishery.

To speed up the program, anglers who wish to donate a wild steelhead that they catch are appreciated, but the well being of these spawners is the first priority. Your fish is only needed if there is a volunteer angler with a holding tube nearby. If a volunteer angler cannot be seen, please release your wild fish right away. Proper fish handling techniques such as the use of wet, bare hands are crucial. Keeping the fish in the water at all time improves the spawner's chance of survival.