The announcement of a level 3 drought rating for several regions of the Southern Interior doesn’t bode well for the future of rainbow trout in the region’s rivers and streams.
That’s the reaction of Trout Unlimited’s Okanagan chapter to news that the Kettle and West Kettle rivers, along with other streams and rivers in the Southern Interiorn, will be closed to fishing from July 15 to Sept. 15 due to low stream flows and warming water temperatures.
“If this (drought) is the new norm and what we are going to live in, what that means to trout populations is they are going top retreat to (higher) elevations,” said Travis Lowe, president of Trout Unlimited Okanagan. “In terms of where trout can live, places like the Kettle where it is so hot and where there is no moisture, they will eventually become uninhabitable for trout.”
On Monday the B.C. government announced the closure of fishing opportunities on streams and rivers including the Kettle and West Kettle and its tributaries as well as as well as an area that covers most of the South Okanagan. Lake fishing is not affected by the order.
It’s the second region of B.C. to come under such a closure after an angling closure order was put in place for southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Island and B.C. Government fisheries biologists are monitoring approximately 60 other key angling streams throughout the province, and if conditions warrant, additional closures are possible.
In the Central Okanagan the most pressure comes on the Kettle and West Kettle, which this year had already had its regulations changed and was going to be closed from July 25 to Aug. 25 a time where low flows and warm water temperatures reached levels that are fatal to fish.
For Trout Unlimted, which has worked on several stream rehabilitation projects on the Kettle and West Kettle, the longer closure is welcome, even though the drought conditions cast a murky picture of the future of the river.
“The closure comes as a relief,” said Lowe. “We are all worried about the future. I can forsee a time when rivers like these ones are not going to have fish stocks in them to provide an angling opportunity.”
Level 3 drought conditions call for voluntary water use reductions of 20 per cent or more from all municipal, agricultural and industrial users. Staff with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations anticipate that these regions could experience significant water supply shortages in 2015.
Ministry staff are closely monitoring river levels and ecosystems and may upgrade the drought level if the weather continues to have a negative effect on stream flows and water supply.
Although residential, agricultural and industrial users within municipalities and regional districts backed by reservoir storage are less vulnerable to water supply shortages than water users served by smaller water systems from streams, lakes and wells, all water users are encouraged to observe local water conservation bylaws to prolong water supplies.