The give and the take on Kootenay Lake is on.
A restocking program designed to inject kokanee salmon back into the big lake is underway. Starting in September the kokanee salmon restocking project begins with the collection of surplus eggs at three sites over 30 days, with the incubation of the eggs at a hatchery over the following two months.
The project — driven by a $399,000 grant from the Destination Development Fund — will take two years with the work carried out by the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club, partnered with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for technical expertise.
The project also draws on the knowledge of Lower Kootenay Band of the lake’s fish stocks and health.
Once the project is in full swing it will benefit the entire region, said Nelson-based owner of Reel Adventures Sport Fishing Charters, Kerry Reed, in a press release.
“The recovery of kokanee salmon stock is an essential contributor to fishing tourism in our area. Many livelihoods depend on it,” he said.
To help the kokanee gain some traction the Kootenay Angler Incentive Summer Event is being staged again on Kootenay Lake.
The program is aimed at enticing visiting anglers and local fisherfolk to get on the water of the big lake and fish for trout and help re-establish “the predator-prey balance in the main body of Kootenay Lake.”
The weekend events are already underway, with the next two taking place on Labour Day (Sept. 2 to 4) and Thanksgiving (Oct. 7 to 9) weekends. The summer-long event runs until Oct. 31.
There is a major change this year involves anglers not having to keep trout heads or travelling to drop them off at a collection depot. Instead, people can register online for the 2023 events and then record their catches by downloading and using a mobile app MyCatch by Angler’s Atlas directly from their boat or the shoreline.
“After catching and killing a rainbow or bull trout, anglers must take a picture of their fish on a measuring device using the MyCatch app,” read a press release on the event. “Once the catch team reviews the fish and it meets the rules, it qualifies as an entry and appears on a live leaderboard where anglers can compare their efforts to each other.”
The more fish caught and documented, the more entries and the better the chance of winning. Additional prizes will be awarded to the people who catch the longest trout and the most fish caught.
The reason for the incentive event have to do with the health of the kokanee species in the lake.
It has been some time since the kokanee salmon has prospered and, for a number of reasons, recent studies have shown that about 95 per cent of the kokanee fry don’t survive a year, likely due to predation by the bigger trout species.
“You just can’t recover kokanee when that is happening,” said Fisheries section head Matt Neufeld in a press release, “so we’re working to increase kokanee numbers both by stocking kokanee, and reducing predator pressure so more survive.”
That means encouraging anglers to harvest rainbow and bull trout on Kootenay Lake. By going after the larger trout species the hope is — coupled with kokanee fishing closures — that it will combine with the re-stocking and restore the kokanee to historic levels.
The idea of the efforts is that, if given a chance, juvenile kokanee can avoid predation and grow to a reproductive age of three to five years old, and the kokanee sport fishery could re-open.