Return of the red fish

One of the rites of autumn in Revelstoke is watching the brave struggle of the red fish as they fight their way upstream to spawn. Here, red fish congregate beneath a cedar at Bridge Creek. Laura Stovel photo

Dave Meyers walks his dog, Willow, at Bridge Creek where the red fish are busy spawning. Laura Stovel photo

By Chrissi Meyer and Laura Stovel

One of the rites of autumn in Revelstoke is watching the brave struggle of the red fish as they fight their way upstream to spawn. Parents take their children to observe these fresh- and salt-water salmon (kokanee and sockeye respectively) as they leap over rocks and other barriers to find a safe place to lay their eggs, their last creative act in life.

This powerful symbol of the cycle of life has inspired the imaginations of local artists including Ron Nixon (who recently sold a magnificent sketch of spawning salmon to a European client at Art First), David Rooney and Gwen Lips whose paintings and wall murals vividly depict these beautiful fish. Kokanee are also depicted in the remarkable fish sculptures that grace Third Street and Mackenzie Avenue.

At Beardale Miniatures and Eagle River Campground, about a half-hour drive west of Revelstoke on the Trans Canadian Highway, large sockeye can be seen laying their eggs in the Perry River. They are just a few of the many thousands of sockeye that make the remarkable journey from the Pacific ocean to the fresh water rivers to spawn. Sockeye spend their adult life (approximately 4 years) in the ocean. They return to their place of birth to spawn before they die.

The Kokanees' larger cousin, the Sockeye Salmon, are back spawning in the Perry River west of town. Laura Stovel photo

Closer to Revelstoke — on the Tum Tum River in the Big Eddy and at Bridge Creek near the industrial park — smaller spawning Kokanee can be observed with ease. Although the Department of Fisheries stopped restoring Bridge Creek for spawning kokanee a few years ago, the creek still attracts plenty of fish.

The Tum Tum, in The Big Eddy, is another spawning ground for Kokanee. Laura Stovel photo

The salmon run is not only a spectacular event for humans and fishermen, it also attracts black bears, eagles and other wildlife. Often there are spots on the bank that indicate bear activity.

If you’re looking for a lovely — and local! — family activity, a visit to Bridge Creek is just the thing for you and your children.

Here are some examples of the way that red fish have been portrayed by local and regional artists:

Painter David Rooney likes the Kokanee because they remind him of little chilli peppers. Painting by David F. Rooney
Kokanee are also featured in the works of local painters, such as this mural by David Rooney and Gwen Lips with the assistance of many local children at Castle Joe Books. Laura Stovel photo
This is a view of the new public art sculpture of sturgeon and red fish fish in front of the United Church. It was unveiled on Canada Day this year. David F. Rooney photo