The Little Hatchery that could… Percy Walkus Hatchery

Deep in the heart of Wuikinuxv Territory and tucked away at the head of Rivers Inlet in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, quietly lies a Canadian coastal phenomenon. For some, it’s a shining example of Pacific salmon conservation in an age of dwindling resources and human foolishness. For others, it’s a passion play and a unique opportunity to help protect the world’s largest Chinook salmon. For local First Nations, it’s an opportunity to stay connected to their ancestors through stewardship and ensure these amazing salmon are around for future generations.

On the banks of the Wannock River lay the tiny community of Wuikinuxv, or Ketit 1 as the federal government-conjured moniker courtesy of the Indian Act suggests. It’s as remote as you can find, cleverly hidden among towering Coastal mountains. A land where freshwater meets salt and the Grizzly Bear reigns supreme over all. This is the land of the Percy Walkus Hatchery…the little hatchery that could.

For the past eight Octobers, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be part of the PWH Team, a select few tasked with ensuring the broodstock fishery on the Wannock River hits its target goal of 300,000 fertilized Chinook eggs. It’s often grinding work drifting gill nets with jet boats on the Wannock, putting in long days in oftentimes burly Fall weather. But it’s also simply awesome.

The people I work alongside comprise a veritable all-star team of salmon aficionados. The team is First Nations led, with the Brothers Walkus at the forefront. Hereditary Chief Ted Walkus and younger brother Dwayne, who I’ve often jokingly referred to as Wuikinuxv 5-0 for their hair- black center console boat ripping Rivers Inlet style, lead by example. Marshall Hans Jr., is a brilliant egg take specialist, toiling full-time for the DFO empire and the Snootli Hatchery in Bella Coola. This past year our team also featured another Nuxalk Nation member in Jason Hall, a true salmon superman who singlehandedly changed an entire river labour force. Retired DFO salmon scientist Sandy McLaren of Bella Coola is often referred to as the Chinook Queen and holds a veritable encyclopedia of salmon knowledge. She is joined by Megan Peruzzo and Jonathan Nolan PWH Co-managers, rounding out an all-star science team tasked with gathering data, DNA, eggs, and sperm. It’s selfless work and takes a certain soul to fully commit.

A little rewind on PWH history: it’s a unique partnership between First Nations, private business and salmon lovers and philanthropists. At the forefront is Duncanby Lodge owner Sid Keay, who runs the most successful fundraiser of all time, out-drawing the likes of the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Sport Fishing Institute by incredible amounts. To see Sid run his Rick Hanson Percy Walkus Fundraiser Weekend in June is a lesson in salmon conservation fundraising master class. And to hear Hansen speak makes you wonder why the guy isn’t our Prime Minister. Tony Allard of Good Hope Cannery and Don McNeice of Bridgeview Marine are a couple more key cogs, and the PSF also plays a helpful supporting role.

Anyways, I’ll freely admit that all the names dropped in this little diatribe are brothers, sisters and good friends. It’s privileged ground the PWH, and working shoulder-to-shoulder on the river is a true family gathering with a higher calling. It’s all about Wannock Chinook. Above all else, and remains an impossible feat to describe what a gill net set of 16 Tyee Grandes looks like. Or feels like. Forty and fifty pounders flying over the gunwale in rapid succession. Make no mistake about it…these are the true Kings!

Since I’ve been involved with the Percy Walkus Hatchery, Islander has donated reels for the big auction and remained a great supporter of our hatchery efforts. The good folks at Pacific Net and Twine have also donated rods and helped with our efforts.

Last year Islander dynamic duo Hannah and Taylor approached me about doing a signature Percy Walkus hatchery TR3 mooching reel. The reels would be very limited, with a run of only 100, unique design and a portion of proceeds donated to PWH. I checked with Sid and Ted to make sure all was cool and Ted quickly brought longtime friend Roy Henry Vickers on board. One of the finest Indigenous artists of our time, Vickers would design the new artwork and the reels would become art pieces themselves. A couple of the earliest reels of the run, paired with custom Islander rods, went for over $40,000 at the PWH auction, true testament of the power of this incredible conservation effort.

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time I’ll put pen to paper telling tall tales of the Percy Walkus Hatchery and my ragtag band of riverbound Team PWH members. Till death do us part. Maybe longer. So with heartfelt appreciation, I couldn’t be happier to announce the very limited Percy Walkus Hatchery Islander TR3 featuring Roy Henry Vickers salmon artwork. The reels will be available at select dealers in British Columbia starting February 16…and I’ll be fishing them with love on the Big Coast this upcoming season!

Yours Truly in Salmon Conservation -Tim Milne

Tim Milne

Since 2008, you’d be hard-pressed to find an angler who has fished more stretches of British Columbia’s coastline than Tim Milne. Every summer Tim puts his BV30 in the water and travels up and down the coast fishing and filming as he goes for his TV series Big Coast.

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