I was sad to see the story regarding the reduction to four days of kokanee fishing in Kootenay Lake’s west arm this year. Sad, but not surprised, because I have fished in Nelson during the winter months for the last 45 years. Forty-five years ago we fished under the Nelson Bridge every day if we wanted to, and pretty much always caught our 15 fish a day limit. There were always lots of fish and fishermen. For the past decade or so fishing was reduced to two days per week, with a five fish daily limit. The fishing was less reliable, and less productive.
Twenty-two years ago, Fish and Wildlife decided to start dumping fertilizer into Kootenay Lake in response to low kokanee spawning numbers. Initially, the fertilizing seemed to work, and kokanee numbers increased in the main lake, but a few years ago the numbers suddenly, and precipitously, plummeted. The West Arm stock, however, was still considered strong enough to support a limited fishery. So we kept fishing.
I tried fishing in the West Arm at Nelson this winter. Whitefish were plentiful, but in at least 10 fishing trips, I didn’t even get a bite from a single kokanee, so I knew something was wrong. The article speaks of “uncertainty around current kokanee numbers.” Did the officials not notice that the kokanee had vanished in Nelson?
We are still dumping fertilizer in the main lake, and the numbers don’t seem to be rebounding. I am concerned that it is the fertilizer that is causing the problem. The initial improvement was the short-term gain, and we are now suffering the long-term pain.
The ministry, for its part, seems to be happy to blame the kokanee shortage on “too many predators.” If the problem was too many predators, the predators would be getting skinny by now, and the fishermen would have to hide behind a tree to bait their hooks. But, from what I hear, the predators are still fat, and not so numerous as to be easy to catch.
In my opinion we should close all kokanee fishing in the entire lake, stop dumping fertilizer in it, and see if a decade without our management doesn’t improve things. I don’t want to be the fisherman who reels in the last kokanee. Kootenay Lake is a big beautiful lake. It should be teeming with fish.