Herring are Here!

It was such a gorgeous day on Sunday that I packed the kids in the car and headed down to Parksville. Both A and C love the playground on the waterfront, and it was a pretty easy sell to get them moving. Typically, we try to work a nature walk (or two) into any day trip and I figured that we could do a beach walk at either Parksville Beach or Qualicum Beach.

Coming down to the Little Qualicum River, I realized that this wasn’t a typical day. Just south of the Little Qualicum River estuary, the water was a brilliant aqua-marine blue and an armada of fishing boats stretched as far as I could see. It took a bit of convincing but the kids agreed to change the itinerary and make a beach stop first. It was well worth it!

Little Qualicum River Beach #1
The main spawning event seemed to be between the estuary at Little Qualicum River
and the north end of Qualicum Beach.
Little Qualicum Beach #2
No eggs or dead herring washed up on the beach,
but the colour of the water was a good sign that the spawn was on!

We spent some time balancing on the drift logs and looking at the flocks of seagulls and the working fishing boats. There were no eggs or fish washed up on the shore, but the fecundity of the herring was evident in the smell and colour of the water. Soon attention waned and it was time to head on to the Parksville Community Park playground.

More boats were lined up in the main bay at Qualicum Beach but “we” decided that the playground was a priority. I figured with this amount of herring (the whole bay was aqua-marine) there might be something to see on the way back so went with the flow.

A couple of hours later, the fishermen were still hard at work when we drove through Qualicum Beach on the way home. I managed to find a parking spot on the waterfront and we headed out onto the sand to do some exploring. With the tide dropping it was possible to get a bit closer to the boats and the walking was easy for the kids. We found a couple of fishing floats and got some more great looks at several different kinds of gulls.

Gulls at Qualicum Beach
Gulls rested at the edge of the beach while more gathered around the fishing boats further out.

All in all it was a spectacular day and amazing to witness the spectacle of the herring spawn first hand. The herring are here, and the next couple of weeks will bring some exceptional birding and wildlife viewing all up and down the east coast of Vancouver Island.

Qualicum Beach Panorama
It was hard to capture the size of the bay and the number of boats without doing a panorama.


  1. What about the herring spawn makes the ocean so turquoise? I’m not familiar with this phenomena.

  2. Hi Becky – thanks for dropping in. The colour of the water is caused by the copious amounts of herring milt (or sperm) being released by the fish.

    I don’t know the physics involved, but I think it’s similar to the effect produced in glacial lakes like Lake Louise – there are so many “particles” in the water and the light refracts, creating the brilliant colour.

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  4. How long will the herring be about? I’ll be heading up to Courtenay this weekend, and would like to catch a glimpse.

  5. Not sure Tim – it’s always been hit or miss for me as far as timing goes and I haven’t heard any reports recently in Comox or around Denman/Hornby. There are large flocks of gulls at Point Holmes and the herring were reported there earlier in the month. Would be worth taking a walk out to the tide pools at low tide. Make sure to stop in and see the sea lions at Fanny Bay on the way up – they’re hanging out at the government wharf.

  6. Thanks for the sea lion tip! I found your older herring post on goose spit, which is quite close to where I’m staying, so it will not be any great investment in time to have a gander…har har 🙂

  7. really nice
    planning a first date on QB. Just wondering where is your last two places in the picture~ Hugs

  8. The last two pictures are the beach at Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island – of course, you have to be there at a low tide to get the sand like that! The beach at Parksville is excellent as well.

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