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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

They’re running!

After I had a really good workout on my new ‘at home program’ in Newman this morning, we were off to meet Josh & Alicia at Englishman’s River Falls Provincial Park in Errington. We somehow took a wrong turn today thinking we had found a new way to get to the park, which made us a bit late for our 11am meeting time. This was our 3rd time going to the Falls and the first time for Josh & Alicia, who live in Victoria.

We hiked from the lower falls to the upper falls which gave Josh and Alicia the chance to see both falls, as well as give us a longer hike.

Alicia went off the trail for a bit more of a daring hike than the rest of us!

Josh & Alicia seeing the lower falls for the first time.

Josh enjoying the lower falls.

It definitely is a long way down to the bottom of the lower falls. It was nice to have a sunny +12C day for our hike today. It definitely felt like spring and there were quite a few people out enjoying hikes today now that B.C. has changed the gathering rules, allowing 10 people to be a ‘safe 10’ outdoors together.

I think they were enjoying their hike today.

Alicia and Josh. Josh is. Not a photo poser, so this is good as it gets!

The trail has great steps built into it, to help get from the lower falls to the upper falls. There is still a lot of climbing elevation though, which definitely lets you know your cardio isn’t good!

Despite a bout of sciatica, this guy kept up pretty well with the ‘youngens’ today.

Standing above the Upper Falls at Englishman’s River Falls. Alicia and Josh really loved this spot.

We met ’Rocky’ the puppy today on our hike. Alicia loves dogs and wants to get a rescue dog, but its hard to find one on Vancouver Island.

Since Coombs is so close to Englishman’s River Falls, we decided to take Josh and Alicia to our favourite little food truck run by a husband and wife team from Bowser. It’s so nice to get to know the locals and them us. When we arrived, the wife said to me, “last time you were here you had the taco chicken salad!“ Which is exactly what I ordered again today since it was so delicious!

Chicken taco salad with fresh pineapple, mango salsa on top. I could not finish this salad it was so large!

Richard had a butter chicken wrap which he thoroughly enjoyed!

Josh had a teriaki chicken wrap and Alicia had a chicken quesadilla. We ate outside at the James Island picnic table. It was really nice to have such a beautiful day to have a picnic lunch!

After lunch we headed over to Goats on the Roof to check out the bookstore. Alicia as I mentioned yesterday is an avid reader, but so is Josh, so we had to see if they could find any good books today.

The bookstore has a bit of a problem! More inventory than they can possibly shelve! They also have a book trade in program which is kind of neat, which reduces the cost of new books purchased.

Alicia managed to find two books today.

Neither Josh or Alicia knew that Goats now had a doughnut shop, so we had to lineup to get us some more Goats on the Roof freshly made donuts! I bought Josh and Alicia 6 donuts and we brought 6 home with us...well, 1 got eaten, so we only have 5 left!

I can’t even begin to remember the names on all of these donuts. I do know that the yellow one is Nanaimo Bar, the next one on the right is Maple Bacon, then the one with red sprinkles is Red Velvet and I can’t remember the name of the two on the left, but they looked good in the store!

After we bought our donuts we sat out on a picnic table for awhile chatting and Josh commented about how nice it was to finally ’hang out’ with us after us being on the Island for close to 4 months. It’s crazy how Covid has impacted our ability to socialize and do ‘normal‘ things that we wouldn’t have thought twice about 2 years ago. Tomorrow Josh and Alicia will be heading back to Victoria and it will be a rainy trip home for them. We bid our farewells and said safe travels, so they could go back and enjoy their cabin at TIgh-na-Mara and hopefully get a fire going in their cabin. Last night their wood was too wet, so Richard called and asked the resort to give them some dry firewood so they could enjoy a nice fire tonight. Richard is always a Trip Director, even now!

We went into Goats on the Roof and bought some cinnamon buns for St. Stephen and Karen to drop off at their RV park, on our way home. We had heard the herring were running in Parksville, so we wanted to see if they were running down their way or not.

I took this photo from the fence at the RV park that St. Stephen and Karen are staying at until Monday. If you look in the distance there is a change in the water colour and that turquoise coloured water is the first indication that the herring are spawning.

Pacific herring prefer spawning locations located in sheltered bays and estuaries. Conditions that trigger spawning are not altogether clear, but after spending weeks congregating in the deeper channels, both males and females will begin to enter shallower inter-tidal or sub-tidal waters. Submerged vegetation, especially eelgrass, is a preferred substrate for depositing the herring eggs. A single female herring may lay as many as 20,000 eggs in one spawn following contact with submerged substrates. The juvenile survival rate is only about one resultant adult per ten thousand eggs, due to high predation by numerous other species. The precise staging of spawning is not understood, although some researchers suggest the male initiates the process by release of milt, which has a pheromone that stimulates the female to begin depositing their eggs. The behaviour seems to be collective so that an entire school may spawn in the period of a few hours, producing an egg density of up to 6,000,000 eggs per square metre. The fertilized spherical eggs, measuring 1.2 to 1.5 millimeters in diameter, incubate for approximately 10 days in estuarine waters that are about 10C.

Herring eggs.

Due to overfishing the total North American Pacific herring fishery collapsed in 1993 and is slowly recovering with very active management by North American resource managers.

Since we saw that the herring were running north of Parksville, we decided to drive home along the Coastal Highway so we could stop into French Creek harbour to see if we could see any herring fishing taking place.

We could see this milky substance on the surface of the water in French Creek, but there were no fishing boats and the water was not turquoise.

What we did see instead of herring fishing though was the herring catch being packed for transport!

The herring coming off the fishing boat on a conveyor into the shipping containers. I watch as the containers were loaded up with seawater to the left of the ship and then slid along to be filled. After filling the containers with the herring and water, the guys in the foreground add crushed ice into the containers, before putting wrap on the containers.

The guy on the far left has the hose which is filling water from the sea into the containers. The guys up front are digging into the ice with shovels trying to break it up, so they can add it on top of the packaged herring.

Loading the herring onto the waiting trucks to take it to the processing plants. I imagine the plants are working 24/7 now until the herring are all processed.

Richard headed into the French Creek Seafood shop to find out more about how long the herring run lasts and found out that the halibut was now fresh! Richard had to buy us some fresh halibut for dinner tomorrow! The season for halibut just opened and we were told that it wouldn’t open until March 15th, so we were glad we stopped in today. We also found out that the tail end of the halibut has less bones, so we made sure that our halibut was from the tail end, as no one likes to deal with bones right? And Richard also found out that the herring season will end when every fisherman has had their quota. The herring quota is very carefully managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and this year’s quota in the Strait of Georgia remains at 20% which was the same as last year. Herring exports generate $40-$50 million a year in income for B.C.

Since we still hadn’t seen the herring fishing boats or the turquoise coloured water in the Strait of Georgia which indicates the herring are running, we kept our eyes peeled as we drove up the Coastal Highway, looking for lots of birds and fishing boats.

We found them! The herring were running in Qualicum Beach!

Fishing boats in Qualicum Beach.

There were thousands of seagulls enjoying the herring too. The birds were all over the fishing boats in Qualicum Beach. It’s hard to capture the turquoise colour of the water unless you’re above it.

I found these photos on the Pacific Herring facebook page which provides updates to the fisherman on where the herring are running and the quantities of herring based on testing of the waters.

Notice the colour of the water, and how the intensity of the colour is around the shallow bays and shorelines.

I love this aerial photo which was taken near Denman Island

It’s really clear here where the herring are running

I love the colour of this water!

Herring spawning very close to the protected shoreline.

So we finally saw the kids again today for longer than a quick lunch outside and we saw the herring run as well as the herring being packaged for processing. What a neat day we had! We’ve been hearing so much about the herring run on Vancouver Island and now we can say we’ve seen it and understand it a lot better. What would have really iced the cake would have been to see some whales who were ‘fishing‘ for seals, but unfortunately without a boat, we weren’t able to get out to see any whales up close, but I’m sure they are out there in the Strait of Georgia, as they know where the food is too!

The weather tomorrow is a complete wash out! UGH. Oh well, we’ve had a good spell of nice weather and we’re hoping for nice weather for our trip to Tofino next week!

It’s hard to believe we area almost down to 2 weeks before we leave Vancouver Island! What a great winter we’ve had of exploring and learning!

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