Helicopter rescue aids Tahltan salmon

Volunteers work to net fish in the Little Tahltan River. Once netted and placed in totes, the fish were airlifted by helicopter to their spawning grounds. - Contributed
Volunteers work to net fish in the Little Tahltan River. Once netted and placed in totes, the fish were airlifted by helicopter to their spawning grounds.
— image credit: Contributed

The Tahltan First Nation have been lending a helping hand to unnaturally sequestered salmon trapped behind a landslide in the Little Tahltan River, which is a major tributary of the Stikine.

“We're wrangling fish,” said Telegraph Creek Fisheries Manager Heather Hawkins two weeks ago in the heat of the rescue effort that involved 14 workers and volunteers working overtime during “long and hot” days as they netted fish and sent them by helicopter to their natal lake.

By early last week they had netted over 2, 600 fish, some of which that can weigh over 50 pounds, and relocated them to the Tahltan Lake 6 kilometres upstream.

The provincial department of fisheries worked with the Tahltan Fisheries Department for the operation.

“We're dropping a net into the river right now and we pull it in. That's how we do the live capture. We place them in totes, and I think the most that we had in the tote was typically 60 to 70 fish depending on if there is Chinook in their because they are big,” said Hawkins.

“We'll have a fly day and send them to Little Tahltan lake where they spawn."

At the time of writing Hawkins anticipated they would meet their goal within days.

She said that the goal was to have 8,000 Sockeye and 1,000 Chinook in the lake before ceasing the expensive and labour intensive operation.

Once the water level goes down in the fall they hope to be able to find a longer term solution to the problem of the landslide.

“The long term plan is to do some minimal blasting, a fish ladder, or maybe winching the rock up to something and pull it out. Wait until fall or winter. Maybe the frost will push the rock out,” she said.

Hawkins added that the landslide isn't blocking the whole river and there are now reports of salmon making it over the blocked passage.

The Tahltan Lake is home to more than half of the fish stock in Tahltan traditional territory.



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