Public meeting tonight will discuss Kootenay Lake fish recovery

The meeting will take place at the Balfour Hall at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 15.

Kootenay anglers are encouraged to learn more about management plans for the recovery of the Kootenay Lake fishery at a public meeting co-hosted by the Province and the Balfour and District Business & Historic Association.

The meeting will take place at the Balfour Hall at 7:00 p.m. On Monday,  June 15.

Significant declines of kokanee have been detected in Kootenay Lake.

Kokanee are the primary prey of large rainbow trout (known as Gerrards) and these declines also negatively affect the Gerrard fishery.

The number of Kootenay Lake kokanee that survive to spawn naturally cycle up and down. Numbers have been in a downward cycle since 2012, and in fall 2014 they were the lowest they had been since annual monitoring began in 1964, at 150,000. While populations will eventually recover as part of the lake’s natural cycle, given the importance of Kootenay Lake to local anglers and businesses, efforts are being undertaken to speed the process. Kootenay Lake provides a world-renowned angling experience, responsible for 40,000 to 60,000 ‘angler days’ every year and $3-5 million in direct angler expenditures.

In response, the Province assembled an expert team of provincial fish biologists, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, the Ktunaxa First Nation and a BC Wildlife Federation technical expert to discuss all options to speed recovery of kokanee stocks.

The expert team has now completed their review, and the Province is using the advice gained to help speed the recovery of Kootenay Lake kokanee populations, and therefore also support a productive and sustainable Gerrard trout fishery. Major actions taken or planned in the next year include:

• Regulation changes effective April 1, 2015 including reducing the quota for kokanee from 15 to 0 fish per day, to allow kokanee populations to recover, and increasing the quota for Gerrard trout from 2 to 4 fish per day, while maintaining the regulation to 1 Gerrard over 50 centimetres, reducing predation on kokanee while still encouraging the continued abundance of large Gerrards. On May 21, 2015, the Province and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC released 90,000 kokanee fry into Crawford Creek and 5,000 kokanee fry into Hendryx Creek, two tributaries of Kootenay Lake.

• Reviewing bull trout catch rate and kokanee survival numbers in late June to determine if short term increases to the bull trout daily quota are appropriate.

• Working with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC to collect up to 5 million kokanee eggs elsewhere in B.C. this fall, to be hatched and released into a Kootenay Lake tributary, if kokanee escapement is below 2014 levels. In addition, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC will raise up to 500,000 additional kokanee fry for release in spring 2016. This will increase kokanee numbers as prey in the lake in 2016, and supplement the next generation of kokanee spawners.

• Extend the nutrient restoration season further into the fall, environmental conditions permitting, to improve kokanee over-winter survival.

• Initiate review and data analysis to better understand predator/prey dynamics in the lake, and inform future management actions.

In addition to these extra measures, regular Kootenay Lake management work is continuing, including fishery and ecosystem monitoring, regulation reviews, nutrient restoration work, maintenance of key kokanee spawning channels and ongoing spawner estimates for both Gerrard rainbow trout and bull trout.

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