Ted Walkus may have made the catch of the year at Rivers Inlet, B.C. Walkus, a hereditary chief of Wuikinuxv First Nation, caught a salmon that makes the fish most of us see at the supermarket look like sardines. It was a 50-pound monster, nearly as tall as Walkus himself.
Catching a fish this big isn’t a total anomaly in the area. Rivers Inlet is known as something of a lost world, one of the only places on Earth where massive Chinook salmon are born. The biggest-ever salmon caught in the area was an incredible 83.3 pounds. Many of the largest salmon in existence begin their lives in this small B.C. settlement.
Walkus caught his massive salmon as part of a conservation project run by the Percy Walkus Hatchery. Volunteers do yearly “egg takes,” which involve catching the salmon as they return to the area to spawn and collecting the sperm and eggs. The eggs are brought to the hatchery where they have a better chance of surviving than they would naturally, and once they hatch, the newborn salmon, or fry, are released into the river to begin their journey out to the ocean.
“Pacific salmon are semelparous, meaning they spawn once and die,” Brydon Peace, the hatchery’s manager, told the National Post, “so by killing the fish we are not doing any harm to the overall population.”
The salmon Walkus caught was returning to where it was born to spawn, a part of each salmon’s life cycle. Salmon are born in rivers, then travel out to the ocean, where they feed and grow. At the end of their lives, they make the long, difficult journey back to their birthplaces to reproduce, dying immediately after.
The salmon don’t even eat after they’ve begun their journey upstream, so even at 50 pounds, Walkus’s salmon had probably lost weight. As Sid Keay, another employee of the hatchery, put it, “That salmon would have been even more impressive to see two months prior when it was in the ocean and silver bright.”