While an older woman sets the fish trap besde the pond, a younger one adresses a small crowd

Monitoring fish and insects in the Dillon Creek Wetlands

Seven adults and two children came to monitor wildlife in the Dillon Creek Wetlands, on April 1st. 

Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) streamkeepers Cec and Christine Robinson and FOCI’s Autumn Barrett-Morgan led the educational event. They began by listening to the birds, whose calls came from every side, and the gurgling flow of Dillon Creek. The aroma of damp earth rose to everyone’s nostrils. 

Zyla Schmitt and Cec Robinson putting bait in a fish trap – Photo by Roy L Hales

Gusts of wind pushing against the microphone produced the periodic rumbling in this recording. A drizzle hitting the mic produced the tinkling sound.

Morgan acknowledged that this is the unceded territory of the Klahoose, Tla’amin and Homalco First Nations. 

Amidst the ever present cacophony of voices in the podcast, you can hear Morgan and the Robinsons discussing where they should put a live fish trap.

Cec Robinson placing a fish trap in Dillon Creek – Photo by Roy L Hales
Christine Robinson wading out into the fish pond – Photo by Roy L Hales

There were three traps. Two were placed in the creek. They decided to put the last trap in the middle of the wetland’s ‘fish pond.’

Morgan explained, “We have the stream keepers here with us. We’re just testing for the fish presence and we’d like to see with this specific method that the streamkeepers use.This is the true way to truly document if we have fish presence in the wetland, other than through observations.”

“We have never done this before,” said Christine Robinson. 

She immediately corrected herself, “I have never done this before. Have you put a trap in here?” 

“Nope,” replied Morgan.

“So we’re curious. When the winter rains have come and the creek is higher, then clearly there has been flow from the creek into the wetlands. So anything that’s here came from the creek,” said Christine.  

No fish were caught that day, but Morgan said she has seen them on other occasions. 

Looking out at the wetlands – Photo by Roy L Hales
The growing sediment in the wetland’s ‘fish pond’ – Photo by Roy L Hales

“I have seen fish flowing in the inlet. When the inlet is actually dry, there is one pool that still remains wet and I’ve seen a fish trapped in that pool and we did bring it back to the creek. I got to see the size and see it up close, such a beautiful fish,” she said.

“Also, when the wetland is very still, I’ve seen ripples that pop up – like a fish scooping an insect off the top. That is more of a passive observation. I haven’t seen the fish themselves doing that.”

A number of scientific measurements were taken in the water and air.

The group was beside the fish pond when Cec Robinson said the oxygen level in the water was ’10.8 parts per million.’ 

Morgan said the water temperature was 11.5 degrees celcius and the air 8 degrees.

That sparked a discussion. Why was the water warmer than the air? Could it be the fact that the pond is shallow and its’ water is not moving? Were the suns rays being magnified? Is that reading is correct? 

Five year old Zyla Schmidt asked, “What are we doing next on the field.” 

The group moved on to the creek. 

While Cec Robinson measured the water’s oxygen level, Christine explained why this is important to fish: 

“They have gills. So if a place doesn’t have lots of good oxygen, they won’t be well or healthy. Some of the things that create good oxygen are cold water, water that’s moving and water that’s shaded.”  

Clamoring through the wetlands – Photo by Roy L Hales
Zyla Schmit and Autumn Barrett-Morgan selecting insects for the critter viewer

The highlight of the afternoon was looking at insects from the pond through a critter viewer. Morgan scooped up water, so that everyone could see creatures like Mayfly larva and Waterboatmen. Five people are talking at once in the podcast. 

Zyla was excited about the critters, “Can I put this other one in Momma!”

Christine was excited about the critter viewers, “These are really cool, I have never seen one before!” 

“Those are neat aren’t they,” remarked one of the streamkeepers who wished to remain anonymous. 

“The device, the contraption?” asked Noba Anderson.

“Yes! Yes!” exclaimed Christine. 

“Wow! This really magnifies it,” added Cortes Currents.

Zyla SChmit looking through a critter viewer – Photo by Roy L Hales
Noba Anderson looking through a critter viewer – Photo by Roy L Hales

“I’m going to get one for my grandkids,” said the anonymous streamkeeper.

“I found another one,” said Zyla, referring to a Waterboatman. “Can I put this other one in Momma!”

Top photo credit: Setting the fish trap in the fish pond – Photo by Roy L Hales

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