Wondering where the sockeye salmon went? We found them up the Adams River


In our #insearchofthesockeye series about 2014’s landmark sockeye salmon run we gave you AN INTRODUCTION, showed you where to BUY SALMON in Vancouver, took you FISHING on the Fraser River for sockeye and introduced you a Vancouver ORGANIZATION that is the leading Canadian NGO that helps make sure the salmon keep coming back.

Today we’ve reached our final destination which is not coincidentally what will be the final resting place of millions of salmon, and the birthplace of many more millions once the eggs hatch. We’ve made it to the Adams River near Salmon Arm BC.

When I was a kid, back in the 1980’s, my father would always take me to the big runs on the Adams. It’s something that stands out in my mind as my first time I appreciated the magic of salmon, so when I found out that this year’s sockeye return was going to be epic there was no way I wasn’t going to take my son to experience the rare treat of witnessing it. We went in 2010 when he was just a toddler and now that he’s 5 I knew it might actually become a memory he’d retain throughout his life. And who am I fooling? I wanted to see those salmon for myself because I’m crazy for fish, so he and I went on a road trip.


Roughly 5 hours north of Vancouver, past Kamloops and before Salmon Arm, lies Roderick Haig-Brown Park. Named after Canada’s most notable and accomplished salmon conservationist/author, it was established in 1977 explicitly to conserve and protect the spawning grounds used by various species of salmon. Haig-Brown is a personal hero of mine and coming to this place is almost a religious experience.


For most of the month of October (ending on the 26th) the Adams River Salmon Society is running a festival in the park called Salute to the Sockeye. There are multiple booths set up, much to learn and things to explore, like this teepee here where first nations storytellers hold court on certain afternoons.


Every 4 years (when these large runs happen) this festival and the park play host to about 200,000 tourists. Some international tour bus operators do special trips here and many British Columbians flock to get a look and to check out this oh-so-BC experience. And speaking of that, did I mention that there are food trucks and that one of them serves bannock hot dogs?!


As you get away from the sort of festival atmosphere that greets you as you arrive there’s a quick walk to the river, and this year they’ve installed some special fencing at points.


Designed to look like a traditional first nations fish weir that caught salmon, this fencing protects sensitive areas that you shouldn’t be mucking around in.

Traditional first nations fish weir on the Cowichan River circa 1866
Traditional first nations fish weir on the Cowichan River circa 1866

This year my friends at the Pacific Salmon Foundation installed a brand new viewing platform (funded by Rocky Mountaineer) at one of the prime spots to check out the fish. In the past there wasn’t much keeping the hordes of visitors from the river, and from what I understand whatever platforms did exist were falling apart.


Here’s what we got a look at on the very first day of the festival in early October. By now the river will be much more red with sockeye and by the end of this month the smell of all those rotting carcasses of the ones that have spawned will become almost unbearable (and will provide MUCH nutrients to the surrounding forest!).


If you go up here and you see people fishing in the river, don’t be alarmed; they’re actually fishing for the trout that follow the salmon. These sneaky fish know roe is tasty and they take advantage of the buffet that’s in front of them. Some sneaky fishermen take advantage of the trout taking advantage of the salmon (Pacific Angler actually offers a COURSE on this type of fishing).


In case you missed the underwater footage I posted a couple weeks back, here you go.

Lastly, here are 3 great 2014 sockeye run features from some other sources:

– Destination BC published THIS informative experiential piece.
– The Vancouver Sun has a gallery from the run HERE.
– The Globe and Mail also has a bunch of great photos HERE.

Thanks for joining us on this adventure in search of the sockeye! You’ve still got a couple weeks to get up to the Adams River and check this out for yourself… or again when it happens in 2018.

pacificangler2 This series is sponsored by Pacific Angler, Vancouver’s store for the fishing enthusiast. If you’re looking for a specific fishing item or planning your next (or first!) fishing trip, their knowledgeable and friendly staff can provide you with the information you need. They also offer a comprehensive and broad range of seminars, courses and fully guided trips for anglers new and old. Visit them at 78 E Broadway and pacificangler.ca
Previous articleUrban Living with the Georgia Straight
Next articleRed Truck, Barkerville and Stanley Park beers go head to head on a cedar stump
Bob is our founder and Editor-in-Chief. A family man and outdoors enthusiast in his 3rd decade of publishing, he steers the V.I.A. ship and hosts our 'BC Was Awesome' history TV show. bobk@vancouverisawesome.com