Kokanee by the thousands

Come see thousands upon thousands of deep red kokanee gathered together at the spawning channel near Meadow Creek at the north end of Kootenay Lake at an open house on Sunday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The September sea of red at the Meadow Creek spawning channels.

The September sea of red at the Meadow Creek spawning channels.

Come see thousands upon thousands of deep red kokanee gathered together at the spawning channel near Meadow Creek at the north end of Kootenay Lake  at an open house on Sunday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The event is hosted by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program which is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of BC, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It works on behalf of its partners to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the creation of BC Hydro owned and operated generation facilities. The spawning channel is jointly funded and managed by the compensation program and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.

Each year between 300,000 and 500,000 kokanee make their way into the Duncan River at the top end of Kootenay Lake and then home into Meadow Creek spawning channel.

“A large part of the channel’s success is due to the relatively high and consistent egg-to-fry survival rates,” says the ministry’s senior fisheries biologist, Jeff Burrows. “In natural streams the egg-to-fry survival rate is usually less than 15 per cent, but due to careful monitoring and management of water flows and spawning gravel condition, the survival rate in this channel is usually just under 50 per cent.”

That means for every 100 eggs deposited in the fall, nearly 50 fry exit the channel the following spring. The Channel usually receives more than 40 million eggs each year.

The 3.3 km looping spawning channel was the largest of its kind in the world when it was built in 1967, with BC Hydro funds, compensating for upstream spawning habitat lost due to the construction of Duncan Dam. To this day the channel continues to play a very important role for kokanee; it accounts for about 75 per cent of total kokanee fry production in Kootenay Lake.

While the spawning channel is open to the public for the duration of the spawning season (unless there is unusually high bear activity), the open house provides an opportunity for the public to ask questions to biologist about the kokanee and the Nutrient Restoration Program of Kootenay Lake.

“Since 1992 the FWCP and the Province of B.C. have been adding nutrients to Kootenay Lake and it is widely viewed as one of the most successful large-lake restoration projects in the world,” says FWCP public representative Grant Trower. “It helps the kokanee which is considered a keystone species and important prey for predator fish; the Gerrard rainbow and bull trout thrive here because of the bountiful kokanee.”

The spawning channel is located approximately 4 km north west of Meadow Creek off Highway 31. For more information on the Open House visit fwcp.ca or call 250-352-6874.