Portage Inlet Cutthroat Initiative
We created the Portage Inlet Cutthroat Initiative (PICI, pronounced “peachy”) with Mick Collins of the Victoria Golden Rods and Reels, Ian Bruce of the Peninsula Streams Society, and Bruce Bevan of the Esqumalt Anglers Society in late 2018, to restore the coastal cutthroat trout of the Portage Inlet watersheds. This initiative quickly grew with the support of several organizations, angling groups and a consulting firm – all with an interest in building up the declining urban coho and cutthroat numbers in the Colquitz River and Craigflower Creek watersheds.
PICIs work will help to ensure salmonids remain in our urban waterways!
What are we doing?
We are keeping an eye on our urban Cutthroat and their habitat through population assessments, habitat assessments and water quality monitoring. Coupled with historical information, this monitoring and assessment helps focus restoration efforts and monitor restoration effectiveness.
Large woody debris for fish to hide under, riffles to aerate and cool water, and gravel for salmon to spawn in are often missing or degraded in urban streams. We work with local partners, such as the Peninsula Streams Society, to rebuild and maintain these important features, improving habitat to support our urban salmon!
We work with partners like the Salmon in the City Project to provide education to groups wanting to learn more about salmon. We also organize training courses, such as Streamkeepers, when there is enough interest to fill a class.
We have gone through multiple resources with publicly available information to create an interactive map of the PICI watersheds. The information available includes restoration sites, fish data and more!
Gorge Creek Estuary
In 2022 we are partnering with the Township of Esquimalt to improve habitat on one of the tidal shelves in Esquimalt Gorge Park! This will improve foraging habitat for Pacific Salmon and forage fish. A complementary project will take place below the bridge in 2023 lead by the Stewardship Center of BC and the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
Coastal cutthroat trout (CCT) have abundant spots, yellowish fins and two distinct orange-red slashed under their jaw. Sea-run cutthroat, those that spend part of their lives in saltwater, often have less spots than those that remain in freshwater, are quite sliver and can completely lack the coloured slash under their jaw. They can spend their whole lives in freshwater or go back and forth from saltwater to freshwater.
Cutthroat are in the same genus as Pacific salmon, however, Cutthroat can spawn multiple times throughout their lives, unlike most other salmonids who spawn once and then die. Cutthroat are smaller than most other salmonids, typically remaining under 17 inches into adulthood.
A Coho salmon fry (left) and a Cutthroat trout parr (right) from Colquitz River.
Salmonids require healthy freshwater streams with clear water, abundant oxygen, shade from riparian vegetation, plenty of hiding spaces, clean gravel, and abundant insect and benthic invertebrate populations. Many of these requirements are under threat by urbanization, especially in Colquitz River and Craigflower Creek. These two systems still support both cutthroat and coho, but at low numbers compared to historical abundance.
Getting ready for a stream survey.
An electrofishing survey underway.
Gathering info on a salvaged cutthroat.
Instream restoration underway!
Why do we care?
The Coastal Cutthroat Trout (CCT) is an excellent indicator of ecosystem health. It sticks around close to its home stream, even as sea-run individuals. As such, it is more isolated from the distant ocean survival that affects other salmon populations, and can be a better indicator of local conditions and habitat improvements. Nevertheless, it is relatively little studied.
It is blue-listed in BC, because of reduced populations, likely from past overfishing and continuing human impacts on their habitat. We feel that a better understanding and greater public profile can contribute to improved stewardship of all aquatic ecosystems, particularly in urban streams where they live and share space with other salmon.