WATCH: The Alberni Valley has come alive with tourists and fishermen after the long-awaited opening for sockeye salmon finally arrived this weekend. Skye Ryan reports.
Salmon fishing is big business in Port Alberni, but it was closed to sportsmen until now due to Fisheries and Oceans Canada predictions that there would be low sockeye returns this season.
David Rhodes has been waiting all year for the opening.
“Oh I was shocked,” the Alberni resident said. “I was shocked they were going to give us an opening for sockeye this year. “
Rhodes managed to get a prize this weekend, a big sockeye salmon, and other fishermen were lined up behind him doing the same.
The Albert Inlet was filled over the weekend with boats and as a result, the Ultimate Fishing Town was also packed with tourists. The crowds came after Fisheries and Oceans Canada made a surprise opening for sockeye fishing on July 1.
“Wow the weekend has been non-stop crazy,” Dara Dirocco of the Alberni Chamber of Commerce said.
“I’ve never actually seen so much traffic in Port Alberni.”
A surprisingly high number of fish are returning to the area, defying Fisheries and Oceans expectations of low sockeye returns this year. Therefore, officials decided to open the first sockeye sports fishery of the season in the Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound.
“All the hotels were booked, camping was booked up,” Dirocco said. “I think we actually had a few people stay out of town in Parksville trying to get here.”
This is also the first food fishery opening of the season benefitting local First Nations who are now gillnetting salmon to fill their community freezers.
“Nice because I didn’t think we were going to get any fish at all,” Tseshaht First Nation fisherman Kevin Titian. said. “I thought we weren’t going to have any fish for the winter so.