Love is in the air, and in the waters too

Mating arctic grayling (Photo by Charles Summers Jr.)

Mating arctic grayling (Photo by Charles Summers Jr.)

February 14, 2021 | by Natalie Sopinka

Did you know the amorous aura of Canada’s most romantic cities can be detected in nearby bodies of water? From coast to coast, and the rivers and lakes in between, there is no shortage of passion…among fishes.

Coastal crooners

Ranked as the most romantic city in Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, offers stunning sunsets across the Pacific Ocean’s horizon. You can stroll hand in hand along the waterfront and listen to the serenade of the plainfin midshipman. When it’s time to spawn, this toadfish species moves from deep waters to the intertidal areas of Vancouver Island. Males burrow under rocks and produce a humming sound to attract females to their muddy love nest.

On the Atlantic shoreline, Halifax, Nova Scotia, offers picturesque harbourfront views and stirring fiddle tunes. Another melody is performed in the waters around the city. During the spawning season, male haddock emit rapid knocking sounds while swimming alongside the female. Males continue to "knock" while flicking the fins on their back up and down before the couple embraces. The haddock's song and dance are thought to bring males and females together to the same location and to synchronize mating.

Largemouth bass spawning (Photo by Mississippi Sportsman)

Largemouth bass spawning (Photo by Mississippi Sportsman)

Freshwater suitors

What’s more romantic than skating on the Rideau Canal in the nation’s capital and sharing a cup of hot chocolate? Or what about wandering the cobblestone streets of Quebec City while snowflakes gently fall along the St. Lawrence River? In the spring, when the ice and snow melt on these waterways, male largemouth bass prepare for their belated Valentine's date. The males build their love nests by sweeping away sand, rocks and vegetation with their tails, creating a circular clearing. Males court females to their nest, and the pair dance in circles around it.  

Spawning Chinook salmon (Photo by Fish On in the Yukon)

Spawning Chinook salmon (Photo by Fish On in the Yukon)

Passion in the north

The aurora borealis isn't the only spectacle that will leave you starry-eyed in Whitehorse, Yukon. Below the waterline in the Yukon River system, spawning kokanee salmon and Chinook salmon have their richest Valentine's Day red on display, and arctic grayling keep their companions close by locking fins during the vibratory release of milt (fish sperm) and roe (eggs). 

Whether you’re planning a weekend staycation or a honeymoon, be sure to get to know the city’s aquatic romantics.

Natalie Sopinka (Photo courtesy Natalie Sopinka)

About the Author

Natalie Sopinka Natalie is a scientist at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research in Windsor, Ontario.

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