As summer winds down and September approaches, just like us, salmon know it’s time to get back to business. Chinook and Atlantic salmon leave the social waters of Lake Ontario and head to the Credit River to spawn.
The migration, or run, starts when water temperatures begin to cool and water levels increase from post-summer rains. This usually peaks in late September or early October but people have spotted salmon in the Credit River as early as mid-August.
Typically, after spending a minimum of three years maturing in large bodies of water, females travel upriver to lay their eggs, returning to the spawning beds that they once hatched from. Female salmon lay their eggs in a redd, a shallow pit in the river bed made by thrashing their tails back and forth. After females lay their eggs, male salmon visit the redd to fertilize the eggs. A female can lay up to 5,000 eggs before she is all spawned out.
Don’t get in the way of a male salmon and his lady. Males fight off other males by chasing and biting them using their kype – a hook-shaped extension of their lower jaw that grows in the weeks before spawning. The female protects the eggs by covering them up with gravel using her tail. After this, the fate of the eggs rests in Mother Nature’s hands.
Pacific salmon like Chinooks or Cohos only have one chance to leave a legacy. Once they’ve finished spawning in early October, they are so worn out from the run that many die. However, Atlantic salmon are more likely to survive after spawning and hopefully return to the same river to spawn again the following year.
Chinooks are easy to spot. On average they measure over three feet in length and weigh about 25lbs. The largest Chinook salmon caught in Lake Ontario weighed 46 lbs! People see salmon spawning all along the Credit River, however, the pedestrian bridges in Barbertown are great vantage points for viewing the run.