It was hard to find a parking spot at Hardy Falls Regional Park in Peachland a couple weeks ago.
According to Marnie Vanstone, a fish interpreter with the Regional District of the Central Okanagan, hundreds took in the Kokanee Spawning Interpretive Program during the first few weekends of September.
But last weekend that number dropped, likely due to bear activity in the park.
Among the few who showed up last Saturday were Ruaidhri King, Gabriele King and Shae-lyn Ross. At first the kids were excited to simply point out the biggest landlocked sockeye salmon they could find. But, before long, they were all ears as Vanstone taught them more about the unique fish.
“If I’m working with children, I use words like magic and amazing,” said Vanstone.
Vanstone said she gives visitors basic history of the Kokanee and then gets into information about their life cycle.
“They’re spawning now—(the female) chooses a mate and starts to build a redd, which is the nest they dig with their tail in the gravel.
“When she’s ready, she signals to (the male) and he comes beside her. She lays the eggs and he fertilizes them.
“After she’s layed their eggs, they both will die…every fish you see will die, none go back to the lake.”
Next Vanstone teaches what happens to the eggs.
“A percentage of the eggs will not be fertile, a percentage will be taken by predators like the Mallard ducks who have learned to scratch the nest out and then eat the eggs as they float up, a percentage won’t get enough oxygen and minerals.
“The ones that do develop will develop eyes first, those are called eyed eggs because they have a very dominant eye. The (eyed eggs) develop into alevin, which is like a miniature fish, but still has the egg sac attached to it, so it doesn’t have to look for food yet, the food is there.”
The Regional District fish interpreter said she tells kids the egg sac is the alevin’s lunchbox.
Once the “lunchbox” is gone, the alevin develop into fry, which have only three days to find their food supply, said Vanstone.
Vanstone, who grew up in New Zealand, said she enjoys sharing her knowledge about fish.
“(Growing up) we did a lot of fishing—that was just part of our lifestyle. And then I’ve lived in northern B.C. on several occasions. I spent lots of time outdoors and just got interested in telling other people about the fish.”
This summer, her audience has ranged from curious kids to seniors showing their grandchildren the fish.
Although Hardy Falls Regional Park is closed due to bear activity, the program will still take place every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. until Oct. 7.