Kokanee fishing re-opens on Okanagan Lake
A kokanee fishery in Okanagan Lake has re-opened permanently this month, after a closure in 1995 due to a crash in populations.
The return to an open, year-round fishery for the land-locked sockeye salmon will mean anglers may catch five fish per day.
Kokanee numbers declined dramatically in the late 1990s, when fewer than three per cent of the number of spawning fish counted in the 1970s were found.
Fisheries stock assessment biologist Paul Askey of the natural resource operations ministry, said the reasons for the decline were complex and varied, but included disease issues, poor water management, a decline in lake nutrients, competition with an introduced shrimp and degradation of spawning habitat.
In recent years, numbers have improved and seasonal openings for kokanee angling have been added.
A 20-year action plan to investigate and try and solve some of the problems was instituted a dozen or so years ago. Since then, water management improvements have reduced mortality, as well as maintenance of spawning habitat and a mysis shrimp fishery has been instituted to reduce their numbers.
While abundance overall is similar now to that of the early 1990s, Askey noted that the recovery favours shore spawning stock over stream spawners.
Shore spawners tend to be smaller than stream spawning kokanee, so he warns anglers to expect to catch large numbers of the smaller kokanee in Okanagan Lake.
It would be irresponsible for anglers to release small kokanee and keep only the big ones because survival of released kokanee is much lower than other species of fish.
“They all taste good, so if you’re kokanee fishing, please just take them as they come and encourage others to do the same,” he said.