Herring are Here!

March 4th, 2013 | by | 11 Comments
Published in Beaches, Central Vancouver Island, Destinations, Estuaries, Fish, Landscapes, Nature Viewing
Tags: , , , , ,

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. casacaudill says:

    March 5th, 2013 at 2:31 pm (#)

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

  2. IslandNature says:

    March 5th, 2013 at 11:21 pm (#)

    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.

  3. casacaudill says:

    March 6th, 2013 at 11:28 am (#)

    Interesting! Thanks for the lesson. I would have never known about this otherwise.

  4. Signs of Spring; Herring Spawn and Fishery in Baynes Sound | VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station Updates says:

    March 7th, 2013 at 12:23 pm (#)

    […] for yourself.  Check the Brant Festival Website for more on viewing opportunities and local Naturalist Dave Ingram has a great photo-essay on viewing the spawn.  We’ll also try and post some updates when […]

  5. tim says:

    March 11th, 2013 at 10:22 pm (#)

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

  6. IslandNature says:

    March 12th, 2013 at 12:23 am (#)

    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.

  7. tim says:

    March 12th, 2013 at 12:33 am (#)

    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 :)

  8. Kick says:

    April 30th, 2013 at 10:08 am (#)

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

  9. IslandNature says:

    May 9th, 2013 at 8:34 pm (#)

    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.

  10. Island Nature  :: Herring Spawn Head’s Up says:

    February 8th, 2014 at 9:00 pm (#)

    […] Herring are Here – my experience in 2013 with the herring spawn at the mouth of the Little Qualicum River […]

  11. I see spring | Watershed Moments: Thoughts from the Hydrosphere says:

    March 22nd, 2014 at 2:36 pm (#)

    […] far the biggest assault on the senses this spring has been the herring run (Dave Ingram over at Island Nature has some great shots). It started a few weeks ago, making visits to the beach a sure thing for animal sightings. Eagles, […]

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