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Where to watch the Salmon Run

Renee Tratch
Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 11:54 AM - The race is on. September is high time to watch fish fly in Toronto and Lake Ontario’s Brown Trout, Coho, Chinook and Atlantic Salmon are already moving up through the GTA’s river systems, leaping over minor barriers (sometimes as high as three metres), making their way towards habitat suitable for spawning.

TUNE IN: Kevin Yarde will be reporting on the best places to see the salmon this week on The Weather Network morning show. You can catch it from 5:30 a.m. - 9 a.m. ET.

And GTA-ers can watch them in action.

“All the major water systems have riverside parks and you can see them running up the river,” said Rick Portiss, Manager of Restoration & Environmental Monitoring Projects at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). “You’ll see them sitting in the little shallow pools resting. Sometimes you can see a 30-pound salmon inches away from you in the water.”

One of Portiss’ year-round projects is tracking the salmon’s movement along Toronto’s waterfront and watersheds. In the Credit and Humber Rivers in the west and Duffins and Highland Creeks in the east, young salmon have been strategically added in spring and fall. At specific periods, specialized fish traps catch them coming upstream where they are then examined for growth and genetic samples taken to check the species before they’re sent along their way.

“We want to see if they are returning back to the rivers and creeks they’ve been stocked in and making successful spawning runs,” explains Portiss.

He is particularly happy to spot an Atlantic Salmon, Ontario’s only native salmon and the first fish species in the Great Lakes to disappear due to the degradation of streams, ecosystem changes in the lake and over-fishing.

Since 2006 the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and its partner organizations have been re-introducing Atlantic Salmon through the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Project. The scope has gradually increased over time and stocking locations tweaked based on best survival rates.

Last year over 2.2 million fingerlings (salmon in three-age classes) were added to four watersheds (Duffins Creek, Humber River, Credit River and Cobourg) and a similar amount is scheduled for 2014. The long-term goal is a self-sustaining population of salmon in the lake. According to the TRCA, despite seeing very successful growth and survival of stocking populations, the number of adults returning to the spawning area from Lake Ontario is relatively low.

Want to learn more? The public is invited to See the Salmon Run at Highland Creek on Sunday, September 28 in Scarborough’s Morningside Park. There will be fish and nature experts on site and guided walks along the park to see the salmon swim upstream.

But you don’t need to wait until then to catch the fish racing upstream. To up your chances, Portiss suggests going just after a rainfall when fish tend to travel off the lake and the presence of fisherman is a good indicator that there are fish on the move.

Along the Humber River, Portiss has seen hundreds of salmon and trout staging before the dam at Old Mill near Etienne Brulé Park. “You can see two or three jumping over the dam every minute,” he explains.

Fish are also running up through the dam farther north in Raymore Park, some via a fish ladder created by the TRCA to assist with the passage.

Downtown Streetsville along the Credit River and Pottery Road with vantage points into the Don River are also good spots. Duffins Creek is another major passage and key area for the Atlantic Salmon re-introduction. Here are some recent sights from the area:

Want to help with the Atlantic Salmon comeback? Check out how you can volunteer as part of Ontario’s community hatchery program:

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