Snorkelling with the Salmon
A world class event:
The celebrity of the city of Campbell River transpires from the long standing reputation of holding the title of the “Salmon Capital of the World”. The entire fuss was initiated by Sir Richard Musgrave who wrote and published an article on October 28, 1896 in “The Field – The Country Gentleman’s Newspaper”.
“Next day was eventful, as I hooked a real monster. I played him for an hour and three-quarters. He turned out to be a 70 lb, which I believe is the biggest salmon ever killed on a rod and line and double gut.”
The article gained great acclaim in England and immediately, fishermen began flocking to Campbell River craving the challenge of landing the fabled 60 – 70 lb Tyee. As the years advanced, increasing numbers of intrepid fishermen realised the dream and Campbell River quickly became world renowned for the superb fishing and unprecedented abundance of large Chinook salmon.
The First Campbell River Snorkeler:
Years later Roderick Haig-Brown settled on a couple of acres of land directly adjacent to the Campbell River, a world renowned journalist, environmentalist, fanatic fisherman, magistrate and lover of all things scaly, Roderick with his eloquent writing style, his love of the sport of fishing and his never ending drive for salmon preservation broadcast chronicles of the attributes of the Campbell River. These narratives prepared the way for thousands of fishermen yearning for the experience that he described so eloquently in his widely published stories.
The inevitability of progress advanced and industry came to this little hick town, Roderick was legitimately concerned with the implications of the proposed building of a Hydro Electric Dam on the Campbell River, and its consequence to the considerable runs of salmon.
“One of my strongest interests and concerns has long been the Pacific salmon runs, not for their commercial value or their value in the sport fishery only, but because of their innate and complex beauty and their symbolic value, though it involves or should involve something more than that – the self – respect and legitimacy of mankind. If, with the knowledge and understanding we now have, we allow this to be destroyed; we ourselves are nothing very important.”
Not being the brand of man to sit back and stalk progress while it impeded on his precious cycle of salmon, the adventurous Haig-Brown embarked on a snorkel of the river in an effort to view the habitat that was the river bottom and the complex migration habits of the salmon with his own eyes. At that time, this was considered a daunting task, as equipment was primitive at best and the activity of snorkelling a river, let alone swimming in one of this magnitude was judged to be a slightly foolish undertaking, keeping in mind that at this point in time, the Campbell River was a natural, free flowing river with shifting volumes of water that were a good deal more significant than they are today.
Roderick’s persistence and tenacity readied him to compile detailed, scientific, and consistent records of the river beds, the migration habits and numbers of each species of salmon, the water levels and a multitude of other factors concerned in the wild salmon stocks, records that set the standard for many studies that persist in biological circles today.
At present the recognition of the name Roderick Haig-Brown, Campbell River and BC coast salmon are synonymous, the world over. The moniker “Salmon Capital of the World” is an acknowledged symbol of fishing and the rehabilitation efforts of all of the Pacific salmon species.
The model was established from that first day that Roderick snorkelled the Campbell River, today as a standard practice, fisheries biologists systematically snorkel all rivers in British Columbia, to personally and accurately reckon, document and inspect the size, condition and movement of the migrating salmon and the surrounding changes in habitat.
A Celebration of Salmon:
As an adventure diversion and in the interest of education regarding these species, thousands of people today migrate to Campbell River every season to experience the delight of a face to face encounter with some of the world’s largest salmon. Don modern day mask, fins, wet-suit and snorkel and float the river beginning in late July until the weather turns in November, enter the frigid waters to float downstream as the salmon frantically scuttle past in their final passage upstream.
Supplemented by the general public’s yearn for this remarkable adventure, a multitude of journalists continue to enhance the publicity of the salmon swim on the Campbell River by printing articles in such celebrated publications as Time magazine, the National Post, and Outdoor Explorer Magazine, to name just a few.
As Stated in the Weekend Post:
“Running with the Lunkers”
by “Cleo Paskal”
“I AM ONE WITH THE SALMON. I have seen the bubbling thrash of white water from below. I have flowed silently over elegant mosaics of multi-coloured river stones. My shadow has darkened the laser beams of sunlight that pierce the surface of the water. I have been startled by the rumble of traffic on bridges. I have heard the rattle of fast water over small pebbles. I have rested in eddies and shunned fishermen. I am one with the salmon.”
Sums it up EH!
Having been an avid river snorkeler for the better part of 25 years, I have had been exalted by the opportunity of snorkelling many rivers on the north Island and the mainland. I have found the Campbell River to be most conducive for viewing salmon for a number of reasons. The first; the consistent flow, the river is neither to shallow nor too deep, second; the river is short and access is easy from a number of spots, third; the runs of salmon are huge and visibility is exceptional.
Having stated a number of positive aspects of snorkelling the Campbell River, a measure of caution is to be exercised. Rivers are dangerous; every year at the very least one person expires on Vancouver Island Rivers. Typically this is owing to the lack of preparation, inexperience or faulty behaviour, river flows do not stop, even if you are in trouble; and a lack of respect for their force can prove fatal.
It is my sound suggestion that if you are not experienced in swift water rescue, that you hire a professional experienced guide to accompany you on your tour, plan your excursion, make sure you have adequate instruction prior to embarking on the run and assure that all your gear is appropriate and in good working order.
River Behaviour and Code of Ethics:
For the Operation and Pleasure use on or in the Campbell River.
In recognition of the increasing pleasure and commercial use of the Campbell River, the following voluntary code of ethics has been developed by the cooperation with industry partners to minimise user impact on the river and promote river safety.
- To protect and enhance the Campbell River natural beauty, water quality, aquatic and wildlife resources.
- To identify and respect the concern for possible impacts on the river and its resources by all users with the goal of minimising them.
- To communicate the safe use of the river.
- Be safe and always swim, boat, snorkel or float with a partner.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the river hazards at all times.
- Respect all other river users.
- Respect all adjacent private property.
- Designated spawning channels are not to be disturbed at any time.
- While swimming or snorkelling, limit the impact on the fish. No lingering, herding or wolf packing.
- Recognise and use designated river entry and exit locations.
- Please take all personal items and garbage with you when you leave.