LETTER: Kootenay Lake hatchery advocates are uninformed

From reader Harvey Andrusak

Kootenay Lake had two hatcheries during the last century. The more notable one was located in Nelson at the base of Cottonwood Falls operating from the early 1900s. It was closed after numerous evaluations determined it did little to improve Kootenay Lake fishing. Its primary purpose evolved into stocking local small lakes and became redundant once the Bull River (Wardner) hatchery became operational in the 1960s. Similar small hatcheries on Arrow, Okanagan and Shuswap lakes also were closed. Hatcheries do work for stocking small lakes when spawning and/or rearing is limited or non-existent.

Kootenay Lake doesn’t need a hatchery because it has many natural streams that support spawning and rearing habitat for trout and kokanee. The Lardeau River is the major spawning system for all three species, especially the Gerrard rainbow trout. Spawning habitat at Gerrard is sufficient but the river capacity to support young trout is limited. In other words, it’s the river that determines the number of Gerrards produced annually; estimates have ranged from about 30,000-to-110,000 smolts per year (one-to-two-year-old juveniles). The reason why trout life history includes rearing in the streams is to grow to a size to avoid predators once they enter the lake. Bull trout juveniles may stay in the streams for up to four years. In other words, small trout/char pay a heavy price if they enter the lake at too small a size.

Kootenay Lake kokanee are not limited because of the Meadow Creek spawning channel and the Lardeau River can produce 500,000-to-1.2 million spawners annually.

Advocates for a hatchery on Kootenay Lake are well meaning but uninformed. The current problem on Kootenay Lake is a lack of kokanee that trout rely on. The solution for Kootenay Lake is to temporarily reduce trout numbers and simultaneously plant kokanee eggs in the Meadow Creek spawning channel to rebuild kokanee. Once this occurs the trout will again grow to the size the lake was so famous for.

Lack of kokanee is the problem and solutions are at hand. The government has been too slow to implement the solutions.

Harvey Andrusak

Former director of provincial fisheries