The final numbers won't be known for months but early observations confirm this was a big year for Adams River sockeye salmon.
A really, really big year.
Les Jantz, Fisheries and Oceans Canada's area resource manager, said Friday biologists and technicians will be on the river for several days yet tagging fish, a process that will help them determine final numbers down the road.
He expects the department will have an estimate of the size of this year's run by January. One thing is clear, however, this year's run will rival - and likely surpass - any from previous years.
Biologists predicted at the start of the season millions of fish, perhaps as many as eight to 12 million, could arrive at Shuswap Lake river systems and creeks to spawn and die. More than 35 million sockeye returned to the Fraser River this year, bound for destinations through the Interior.
The run is not done yet, Jantz said. There are still fresh fish entering the Adams River, although the numbers are falling off.
"The run is definitely past the peak now," he said. "In another three weeks, it will be done."
Jantz said the number of fish present in the Adams River, Shuswap Lake and its tributaries suggest this will be a record year.
Some people have suggested they did not see more fish in the river than in 2002 and 2006, which were other peak years, but Jantz said this year's run has endured much longer than usual.
And one thing is clear - there are many, many dead fish lining the riverbanks and lakeshore area right now.
Jantz said the decaying salmon will smell for a while, but will disappear soon enough. Shuswap Lake residents are urged to leave the carcasses alone and let Mother Nature take care of the clean-up. The dead fish provided needed nutrients for the eco-system and are as vital to the environment in death as they are alive.
"They are excellent fertilizer," he said. "They won't be there for long."
Jantz said he's not aware of any data that shows the dead salmon pose a risk to human health in any way.
"Just don't eat them," he said.
Meanwhile, organizers of the Salute to the Sockeye say they also had record crowds arrive for the three-week festival. More than 160,000 people passed through the park to view the salmon, in nearly 40,000 vehicles.
"Everyone had a fabulous time," said Jim Cooperman, one of the organizers. "In addition to the awe inspiring experiences of viewing the salmon, there were many compliments about excellent organization of the event."
Cooperman said the tireless work of nearly 120 volunteers helped make the event as smooth as it was.
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