The fourth annual Smoltfest in Prince Rupert drew a large turnout of kids and their families to the Oldfield Fish Hatchery in Prince Rupert on Saturday.
About 50 kids with buckets in hand lined up to get a chance to take a couple of juvenile salmon down to the creek behind the hatchery and release them into the wild.
Each kid got about four to six of the 7,500 year-and-a-half old Sockeye in their bucket and were shown to one of three different spots where they could dip the bucket carefully into the water and see the tiny fish swim away into the wilderness for the first time in their lives.
Everybody involved seemed to be enjoying themselves, there were surprised squeals when the little fish in a bucket would thrash around and spray kids with water, some kids put a finger into their bucket to see what a live fish actually felt like, and almost every kid ended up heading back to the line to get some more fish to release.
According to Ashley McCrea from the Prince Rupert Salmon Enhancement Society, all the salmon were collected from the same creek they were being released into and in a couple of years they will be back to spawn themselves.
When they weren’t releasing fish into the wild, volunteers ran activities like a version of a ring-toss where there were cut-outs of salmon jumping into the air instead pegs, and a “smolt race” which was really a potato sack race. They also gave out prizes such as posters and key chains.
McCrae says that unfortunately the size of this year’s Smoltfest had to be scaled back considerably because of the renovations going on at the hatchery building, which is being turned into a salmon education centre. Donations at the barbecue during Smoltfest will go towards funding the renovations, which they hope will be done by the end of the summer.