For all McKinnon’s Creek Hatchery supporters and helpers in both North and South hut communities, plus the many others in South/Mid Canterbury who help and support, here is a hatchery update. Fortunately we were able to operate under MPI restrictions and a strong SOP during the period of lockdown to ensure survival of the species and so with minimum numbers of volunteers we carried on.
130 sea run adults returned to hatchery. Approx 130,000 eggs from some of these incubated. All remaining fish released to McKinnon’s creek. Approx 53 Broodstock females used. 120,000 eggs incubated. All females crossed with sea run males. All remaining broodstock released into McKinnons creek. A total of 250,000 eggs, (give or take) are under incubation. The trap has been removed and there are salmon throughout the length of McKinnons creek. Some of these are spawning in suitable areas. These results are remarkable considering operating under strict protocols and MPI guidelines. Thanks must go to the volunteers who achieved these results to ensure we can all enjoy our fishing for salmon in the future. There are severe restrictions imposed by Fish and Game, that limit our range of activities to McKinnons creek and the lower part of the Rangitata river. Photos show some happy helpers and other activities associated with the spawning cycle. Click on photos to enlarge.
Who know's what is around the corner???
The build up of the current Pandemic and subsequent lock down has had a marked effect on operations at the hatchery.
Just at a time when a good number of adult fish began to turn up at the hatchery, we had to make some drastic changes to hatchery operations to comply with Level 2 then level 4 lock down rules. Firstly we clarified with the Ministry of Primary Industries that we were classed as an essential service under "animal/fish welfare and the survival of a species". Secondly we produced a strict SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for anyone working at the hatchery plus a trace-ability list. Anyone working at the hatchery has to sign the document to show they will comply. Attendance has been kept to an absolute minimum and only essential jobs are being done. Family "bubbles" are strictly reinforced.
To date around 85 adult fish have returned from their sojourn in the ocean and have been trapped and located in adult pens at the hatchery. This comprises 50 female fish and 30 odd males.
We kept a number of fish back from our 2018 release as broodstock as a backstop in case the salmon run petered out altogether and fed and looked after them in one of the raceways. These fish began to mature from the beginning of March and stopped eating as they would in the wild.
Because of the decision to cut back somewhat on the workload for hatchery volunteers, it was decided to release some of these into McKinnon's creek and let them spawn naturally in the stream. So in mid March, after separating the males from the female fish, we released 235 females and 80 males back into the stream. To date these fish have dispersed throughout the creek and some "redds" have already been spotted.
The annual fin clipping day attracted a good number of helpers once again and the job of clipping 7500 salmon smolt was completed in 1.5 hours. These fish will be released later this year and hopefully return in 2022. In addition a few returned adults were removed from the trap to more permanent housing. Many thanks to all those who attended and to Alan Brooks who gave the assembled crowd some insight into the future of hatcheries within the overall plan of salmon enhancement.
Work to restore the site has started at the hatchery with Robert working with an excavator on hire from Oliver Bros. In 90 minutes he has successfully filled and leveled a large hole the river scoured out by the hatching shed. See photos. More work to be done yet.
These photos show the amount of water in the vicinity of the hatchery due to a major flood event in the Rangitata river over the weekend of 7th December. The flow down the south branch meant that we could not get to the hatchery for several days. Damage was limited to scouring around hatchery and the loss of several young fish from the shed tanks and some adults from the fish race. Mud was everywhere and there is a large amount of work to be done to get it back to what it was. We consider we got off pretty lightly.
June to November have been quite busy at the hatchery with upgrades on shed water filters, fin clipping flumeing, fish feeders and fish trap completed. The fish in the shed are growing well and thanks to Raylene Clarke the tanks are kept extremely clean.
Another project under way is the removal of trapped salmon fry from the RDR (Irrigation Intake area) and releasing them to a tank at the hatchery for growing out and releasing at a later date. This is an initiative of Fish & Game and RDR Management.
The few adult fish that returned continue to be stripped and the eggs incubated. Sever thousand are under incubation at present and still the odd fish are returning to the trap. Our loyal band of volunteers are beavering away every second day, checking fish and processing those ready. Once again a big "thank you" to them for their efforts!
To make sure the hatchery is compliant with the relevant consent conditions, we had to put a concrete structure in place in the water supply by-pass to measure the water flow into the hatchery. The structure was built on site and installed with the help of Fish & Game and "Oliver's" digger driven by our own expert Robert.