Two fishermen caught more than they bargained for just outside Yellowknife last week.
When Greg Robertson and his nephew Trevor Murdoch made their way across Prosperous Lake to the Tartan Rapids last Tuesday, the plan was to net ciscoes – a popular bait fish used for catching lake trout.
But that’s when something totally unexpected happened.
“As we went down to the bottom of the rapids, [Trevor] had a pair of waders on so he waded out a bit and he dipped his net into the water and up comes a couple of ciscoes and a salmon,” Robertson told Moose FM.
“We were kind of in shock so what we did right away was call [the territory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources] just to make sure what we should do.
“We were amazed. We didn’t know what to say when we saw it, it was a total surprise.”
Robertson, a seasoned angler, says he’s heard of salmon being caught near Hay River and in the Mackenzie River before but never in the Yellowknife River.
He believes the fish – which weighs eight pounds and stretches 29 inches long – is a chum salmon.
According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, chum salmon are typically found in the Pacific Rim, including in Arctic waters.
But how on earth did one end up at the Tartan Rapids?
“These salmon would come from British Columbia I imagine so it’s a long way to travel,” said Robertson. “How it got into the Yellowknife River, that’s really a mystery.
“It makes you wonder though, if he’s spawning there are probably other ones in there.”
Robertson says the fish looked old and sick when it was caught.
“The salmon was quite lethargic,” he said. “He had a hooked nose and he looked like he’d been spawned out.”
Typically, salmon will migrate up rivers to spawn. Once they’re done, they’ll die, causing the fish’s life cycle to start over again.
After connecting with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Murdoch has agreed to send the fish to Winnipeg where a group of researchers is studying salmon populations and spawning behaviour in the Arctic.