Province introduces restriction to kokanee fishing in Wood Lake
Responding to dwindling kokanee salmon stocks in the Okanagan's Wood Lake, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has brought in several regulatory restrictions for anglers using the lake this year.
For the 2013 season, the new regulations for Wood Lake include:
• The kokanee fishery will be open from April 15 to May 31 only.
• Each angler will have a daily quota of two kokanee.
• No fishing for kokanee is permitted the rest of the year.
• The fishery may be halted early or extended, subject to in-season
monitoring data. To confirm dates go to: www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/fish/regulations.
Just last week, the Oceola Fish and Game Club called on the province to implement a total ban on all kokanee fishing in Wood Lake until it can be determined why there was such a plunge in the number of spawning salmon in the lake last year.
Wood Lake is Canada's premier kokanee fishery, garnering in excess of 10,000 angler days of fishing time each summer. However, in 2011, poor in-lake conditions led to significantly increased mortality rates for kokanee of all ages.
According to the ministry, in 2011, the number of kokanee returning to spawn was 6,300, well below the average of approximately 14,000. In 2012, only 2,300 fish returned, the worst result on record dating back to 1994. Acoustic trawl surveys supported by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund indicate that 2013 and 2014 returns will be very low as well, prompting this year's action to limit the fishery.
In-lake conditions were excellent for kokanee survival in 2012, and a more substantial kokanee run that should be able to support a full season harvest is expected by 2015, provided conditions remain favourable.
Routine surveys of the number of fish returning to spawn along shorelines and tributaries of the other main valley lakes in the Okanagan showed:
• Okanagan Lake kokanee spawners totalled 98,000. That is a sharp decline from exceptionally high numbers in 2011 and the lowest return since 2004.
• In Kalamalka Lake, kokanee numbers totalled 19,000, which is an average return for that lake.
• Skaha Lake had a total kokanee count of 35,000, which is very similar to run numbers for the past four years.
Kokanee salmon are land-locked sockeye salmon found in all Okanagan main valley lakes. They represent a fishery resource and an important part of the natural ecosystem.
The ministry says it and its partners will continue their efforts to restore spawning and rearing habitats and ensure the long-term health of kokanee populations.