If you were a sport fisherman in the Comox Valley before the 1990’s, you know how good the fishing in the Strait of Georgia used to be. Chinook, Coho, and Pink were plentiful, though Tyee [30 pounds plus Chinook] had already been declining in our waters for several years. But even then we heard tales of how abundant the Tyee had been in Comox Bay, and around that area, before the Puntledge Dam and Hatchery went in. Yes, some Tyee were still being caught around here, but if you wanted to catch one for sure you headed to Nootka Sound. That is what thousands of us anglers did. We went over there for the giant salmon, the 30 to 60 pounders, and there were a lot of them. The 10 and 20 pound Chinook were usually released, since we could catch them easily off Kitty Coleman, but we took the Nootka Tyee home in our coolers. In the early 1980’s, the Conuma River Chum Hatchery went in, and a few years later it started rearing Chinook and Coho for the Nootka sport fishermen. We have known since 2004 or earlier that hatcheries diminish the genetic diversity of fish. It is also easier to take eggs from a smaller fish — short circuiting the benefits of natural selection. So between the hatcheries diluting the genetics of Chinook and Coho, plus the sport fisherman selectively targeting Tyee, I think we know where those giant salmon have mostly gone. Sport fishermen must take their share of responsibility for that.
There is a quote from a scientist on the PBS documentary called Salmon: Running The Gauntlet from 2011. “Hatchery programs are trying to replace Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart with, Yanni, Yanni, and Yanni, and it’s not going to work.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlSgMImc1Qs