The fall is here which means salmon spawning season is upon us. During this time of year, salmon can be seen migrating to reach their winter homes where they spawn. “The best spots [to watch] are in people’s backyards across Toronto and GTA,” says Adam Weir, a fisheries biologist at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
“A lot of the major river systems in Toronto and GTA get substantial salmon runs.” According to Weir, some of the best places to watch salmon run in Ontario are:
- Credit River
- Humber River
- Ganaraska River
- Highland Creek
- Cobourg Brook
The salmon run can start in late August and continue into September and October. “The time period can fluctuate depending on lots of different variables,” said Weir. “ Generally, the time around September and October is quite good for viewing pleasure.” There are a lot of things that can trigger the migration of salmon during this time of the year, but the main reason for their journey is spawning. “This migration is the most important part of a fish’s lifecycle. Salmon invest all their energy into this one event, which is reaching their spawning grounds, laying eggs, and getting them fertilized.”
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During the spawning process, you can encounter many different types. “Chinook salmon and Coho salmon are terminal spawners which means that they die after spawning,” Weir explains. The technical term for this type of reproduction is semelparous. These species usually reproduce only once in their lifetime and after which they usually die. “Often you may come across dead carcasses floating around in the river system or on the shoreline. This is just a part of the life cycle for these species,” said Weir. The Atlantic salmon, on the other hand, can often spawn for several successive years before dying.
While the salmon run is a fascinating event to witness, it is important to remember the impact of human activity and urbanization on these species. “Some of the most overarching themes are habitat loss, habitat degradation, pollution and water quality,” Weir pointed out. “For issues like these, we need better policy, regulation, and good management.” In his view, developing a greater appreciation for such things can help humans in understanding their importance. “Education and exposure to these things at a young age is a critical component to developing a lifelong appreciation for the things we have.”
A century ago, Lake Ontario was populated with large numbers of Atlantic salmon, but human activity, pollution, and low water quality wiped the species from the lake. OFAH along with many other partners are working to bring the Atlantic salmon back to Lake Ontario. While talking about Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program, Weir said, “OFAH is a part of the conservation of our natural resources too. We work with volunteers and partners on production, stocking, and water quality that can help in the restoration of Atlantic salmon. With outreach, education, and research, we plan to bring back species that were once long lost.”