It was a day months in the making, and with the use of a helicopter donated by Western Forest Products 30,000 small fish were flown in tanks up to the Leiner River.

The Tahsis Salmon Enhancement Society releases about 300,000 fish a year but this was the first time in many years a helicopter was used to fly fish to a remote location.

“There’s hardly any Springs up there,” explained Society Manager Bill Dwulit. “Last year there were four Springs up there and the year before there were 12 and there are beautiful spawning beds up there and they have problems getting up through the canyon there by the bridge.”

When the helicopter reaches the drop-off spot the pilot dips the tank into the water and soon thousands of fry swim free for the first time.

“What we are trying to do is encourage the salmon to go into that spawning pool so hopefully they will come back there year after year is what we’re hoping and they’ll be imprinted in that area,” said Society Treasurer Danielle Hozempa.

They’ll almost immediately make their way down to the ocean however only about 1 per cent of the fish will return.

“These ones up here will experience more predation on their way down to the ocean and we’re hoping they might come back but they’ll probably experience low survival,” said Dave Davies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “But some of them might come back bigger we’re hoping just because there’s a bit more natural selection on them.”

Dean Stoltz