Colquitz creek is a small urban creek that flows from the well known Elk/Beaver lake system and winds its way through the backyards, parks, and roads of Saanich. It has numerous tributaries , many of which appear at first glance to be ditches, shrouded in non native blackberries and ivy, and yet act as important rearing and in some cases spawning habitat for the salmonids found in this watershed. The Colquitz feeds into the productive and beautiful Portage inlet which in turn leads to the Gorge waterway, past Victoria harbour and out to the Salish sea.
This year at the fish counting fence, conveniently located at the edge of a large mall parking lot, we have seen a record return to date of over 1580 large wild Coho, as well as 7 sea run cutthroat, and 1 lonely chinook jack. Nearby Craigflower creek also has a counting fence at which they have also seen a very strong run of Coho. The salmon here are just one of the many species that call this place home, from mink, to owls, to otters, and seals, to a large variety of migratory and non migratory birds in the shadow of a fairly large urban populace. Many still do not realize this and other creeks near Victoria hold significant populations of Coho salmon and sea run cutthroat trout, in addition to being part of an incredibly unique and productive watershed and marine ecosystem.
As always this creek remains entirely vulnerable to spills, urban pollution, habitat loss, and neglect. Just this fall, we have seen home heating oil spills, large scale flushing of poisonous roadway runoff into the creek, work crews flushing sediment, concrete, and debris from construction sites, large amounts of chlorinated water flushed from fire hydrants, dredging on tributary creeks, dredging in Victoria harbour, leaking septic tanks and many other forms of pollution unseen. In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that in 2011 there was a significant oil spill on Swan creek (a tributary creek of the Colquitz) that affected some of the parents of this run, this year, a hitherto unmatched return of Coho has arrived.
A large male coho with a small male coho
A fine colquitz sea run cutthroat
Upstream spawning area, with some competition hovering nearby…
coho milling in the trap
One incredibly random November chinook jack
This system survives because firstly nature is far more resilient than people will ever admit, and secondly because a small group of incredibly dedicated volunteers, groups and community minded individuals have fought tooth and nail to preserve it continuously and unceasingly. There are many volunteer groups working continuously to preserve different parts and sections of this awesome watershed.
I have spent a significant amount of time this fall volunteering at the counting fence and on this creek, and I tell you that it’s been amazing to meet so many people who are dedicated to preserving this place in all of it’s facets, of which the salmonids are just one small part of. As ever I admonish all of you to get involved in your local communities conservation groups, wade into and involve yourself in the local politics, cause your apathy does nothing, it only makes you weak and does nothing for the places, creatures or people who help make up your life.
So for any of you who think that nobody out there is working to help anadromous fish and their ecosystems, here are just a few of the many awesome groups working within and around this watershed (apologies if I missed anybody) If you know of more tell me about it.
Colquitz Salmonoid Stewardship & Education Society
Gorge waterway initiative https://www.crd.bc.ca/gwi
Peninsula Streams www.PeninsulaStreams.ca
http://worldfish.org/ world fisheries trust
http://www.hat.bc.ca/ habitat acquisition trust
Goward Springs Watershed Stewards
Friends of Swan Creek Watershed
Victoria Golden Rods and Reels
Friends of Cuthbert Holmes Park
Haig-Brown Fly Fishers Association
Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association Colquitz Watershed Stewardship Coalition
Gorge Tillicum Community Association
Stop whining like a bitch and get involved!