History

The entrance to tidal Refuge Lagoon was dammed in the early 1900s to facilitate logging and over the years the salmon runs were lost. Now a fresh water lake, the lagoon is a source of water for the boating and local communities. The first DSSES project raised funds to replace the lagoon’s aging metal dam. With the help of the Refuge Cove Store, the Department of Fisheries, and Dave McCoy astride his backhoe, a rock dam was built and a natural fish ladder created around an ancient, stone, Klahoose “cook-pot”. Fish now enter and exit the lagoon at will.

In order to assure adequate spawning grounds for the Coho we were to introduce, we rehabilitated Beaver, Kyte, Coho, Culvert, Miner’s, Thompson and Lagoon Creeks at Refuge Lagoon. Our trail meister and Jan Hanson built access trails alongside creeks to facilitate improvements and monitoring. The Powell River Forestry Office agreed to cease dropping wood into the lagoon. The logs had previously been flumed out the chum spawning channel. The newly rehabilitated salmon creeks were added to forestry maps to protect them from further encroachment. Beaver Creek, which includes 1.5 K of spawning area, is one of our largest creeks and vulnerable to gravel clogging from silt run-off caused by road building and up-hill clear cuts. Road builders filled in Culvert Creek but, after our complaints, a culvert was installed. We cleared tiny Davy Creek but, in two weeks, the industrious lagoon beavers damned it and flooded one of the Black family old homestead’s fields. On the theory that we wished the entire lagoon to be in the hands of its animal population, we left them to it. The existing trout population expanded due to rehabilitated territory. Three years of grants from the Comox Strathcona Fisheries Renewal Partner Group allowed us to raise 12,000 to 15,000 eyed Coho eggs per year to smolts at Rob Smeal’s fish culturing operation in Doctor Bay on the east side of West Redonda. They have been released into rehabilitated lagoon creeks. During our third and fourth year, our egg source, the Sakinaw Lake run, failed and a gap was created in our cycles. A fifth year of eggs was raised and released in spring 2003.

We observed Coho and a number of straying Chum salmon return and spawn in Coho and Beaver Creeks in the fall of 2001. Chum also spawned in the old flume area and above the rock fish ladder. That fall carcasses of spawned out fish could be seen on the banks of the creeks each day although they disappeared nightly and were replaced by the paw marks of what must have been delighted wolves. Satiated herons and eagles swayed in the trees. A water ouzel ran under creek water and dug out salmon eggs. The elaborately interconnected salmon system, dormant for 25 years, sprang to life. Even Kite Creek, which had been a logging road, was visited by spawning fish.

Although it had been our plan to introduce the Chum necessary to the Coho system, we were delighted by their independent decision to spawn in the Lagoon. They were, perhaps, strays from those introduced to Squirrel Cove Creek by the Klahoose Band on Cortes Island.

In the fall of 2001, Fisheries Renewal biologists reviewed all funded projects and informed us ours was one of the smallest, most remote and one of the best projects. That winter the work crew, at the suggestion of the Community Advisor, turned their attention to the rehabilitation of Landover Creek which drains into Black Lake at the head of Roscoe Bay on the east side of West Redonda. Although dammed and flume’d, Black Lake retains a tiny coho run and Chum were seen there that year.