When the Gosling brothers were boys 60-odd years ago, the pair used to scoop salmon out of Stoney Creek in east Abbotsford with their bare hands.
Now Doug and Chuck, aged 67 and 65, regularly patrol the banks of their childhood haunt each autumn in hopes of glimpsing any salmon that might have returned to the creek to spawn.
"When Chuck and I were little we fished this creek and there were lots of salmon, and trout, too," said Doug Gosling.
His brother agreed, noting the decline of salmon returning to Abbotsford's creeks has been dramatic within their own lifetime.
"Less than a hundred fish are coming back every year. That shows these guys are in big trouble," said Chuck.
The men, who belong to Abbotsford's Stoney Creek Salmon Stalkers, a group affiliated with the Abbotsford Ravine Park Salmon Hatchery, volunteer to monitor returning salmon and promote the preservation and improvement of the species habitat.
A rare sunny day in mid-November sees them traversing the creek's banks and shallows looking for any evidence of coho or chum salmon returning to their birthplace.
The men peer into the deep pools and under banks for resting fish and use branches to retrieve and prod any carcasses to determine the species of the fish and if they successfully spawned before perishing.
"We also pay attention to the habitat and measure water flows and temperatures in the creek," said Doug.
That day the men counted eight chum and four coho along Stoney Creek.
They also monitor McLennan Creek in north Abbotsford, which runs into the Gifford Slough and into the Fraser River.
They've been pleasantly surprised by the number of fish they've been finding there and spotted 31 coho and 13 chum on their most recent foray to the creek.
The Ravine Park hatchery on average releases 30,000 fry into Abbotsford salmon streams such as Stoney, Willband, Downes and McLennan creeks annually.
However, despite some positives, experts are mostly agreed the Fraser River salmon return is flailing.
Salmon Inquiry Commissioner Bruce Cohen's recent report found no single explanation for the two-decade decline in Fraser River sockeye salmon, but recommended a freeze on salmon farming in the Discovery Islands until 2030.
Biologist Mike Pearson, a long-time aquatic ecologist consultant in the Fraser Valley, notes Abbotsford's creeks don't support sockeye, whichare lake spawning. But all salmon are facing the same larger problems including stressors in fresh and salt water habitats and a changing climate and ocean.
Urbanization and agriculture are the primary culprits for the decline of viable salmon habitat within the Fraser Valley, but no one can entirely be sure what's going on in the Pacific, he said.
"There's this black box of ocean conditions and nobody really knows what happens out there, but its changing conditions are affecting all species returns," said Pearson.
However, people can still positively impact salmon habitat in local creeks.
Maintaining riparian vegetation along streams and creeks better guarantees good feeding, proper water temperatures and inhibits invasive grasses that can deplete oxygen levels in the water.
Other useful measures would include governments promoting urban development that mitigates stormwater flows and limits the amount of fertilizer and other toxins flowing into streams.
Pearson says that he's not "anti-development" but thinks the best practices to protect fish habitat can improve.
The biologist also points to a consistent lack of funding and the recent cuts by the federal government to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as a concern to maintaining salmon habitat.
In the past, DFO officers would be assigned to walk streams to monitor fish returns.
Now DFO relies heavily on volunteer stream keeper groups to keep the count.
The groups provide an invaluable educational service in their communities but can't guarantee consistent data year after year, said Pearson.
The Gosling brothers, avid fishermen, also want to see moves that would help salmon thrive.
The men see their conservation work as a means to give back to their community and hopefully future generations.
"I hate to see that young people might not get to see salmon," said Doug.
"When we see the fish populations we're seeing now, it's a bit bothersome for us old farts."