It may have been a tumultuous year, but 2020 also marked the best Kokanee returns for Okanagan Lake.
Senior fisheries biologist for the province’s fish and wildlife branch Tara White said a total of 388,184 Kokanee returned to the lake, which she said is exciting news.
“The Kokanee returns for Okanagan Lake this year were the highest numbers we’ve seen since the 1970s,” she said.
“The 2020 returns were 220 per cent of the previous ten-year average, so it’s quite substantial.”
White said the best explanation they can give right now for the significant increase is a combination of favourable environmental conditions, including cooler water temperatures and higher stream flows, as well as ongoing habitat restoration projects.
“72 per cent of the stream-spawning run returned to both Mission Creek and Equesis Creek and those two systems had habitat restoration work completed in them in 2016 and 2017 and it could explain some of the reasons why a good portion of the run returned to those systems.”
She added it’s hard to say whether 2021 will see a similar number or better, as recent years have been riddled with either drought conditions or extreme spring freshet and high flows, which cause increased lake bed movement and can sometimes block the fish’s access to the lake.
“We spent several decades trying to recover the Kokanee stocks. This is significant and substantial that we’ve actually seen returns. There are all kinds of factors that could be at play there, so we’ll have to keep sifting through the data and wait and see what happens,” she said.
White said they’re excited about this year’s high return rate and hope that it continues.