Trophy Gerrard rainbow like this one caught in 2012 are rare these days, but the BC Wildlife Federation introduced an angler incentive program to help restore kokanee stocks to Kootenay Lake. Submitted photo.

Angler incentive project launched on Kootenay Lake

Anglers are encouraged to keep their catch on Kootenay Lake and enter a chance to win big prizes

Kootenay Lake anglers can help restore the kokanee fishery by keeping their catch, and win some attractive prizes while they’re at it.

The BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) launched the Kootenay Lake angler incentive program Monday, June 1. Anglers are asked to harvest their catch of rainbow and bull trout, then turn in the heads to one of four depots, and be entered into a monthly draw for prizes valued at $1,000.

“The sports fishery on Kootenay Lake was once renowned for its stock of large Gerrard rainbow trout and kokanee salmon,” said West Arm Club president Gord Grunerud. “We want to get back to a robust sports fishery in our region.”

All entries will then go into the Grand Prize draw in June, 2021, for a chance to win an 18-foot Kingfisher boat equipped with a 115hp Yamaha engine from Jones Boys Boats.

Thanks to an almost $50,000 grant from the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, the incentive program will purchase $500 gift certificates from local businesses that have been affected by the downturn in sportfishing on the lake and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want people back on the lake, and so we have a lot of small businesses that depend on this,” explained Grunerud. “So basically if you are the winner, we’ll have a number of gift certificates of which you can pick two.”

Related read: West Kootenay Fishing Report: Prime time for fishing on local lakes

The number of main lake kokanee spawners have historically ranged from 250,000 to 2 million. But low survival rates in the main lake have reduced spawner numbers to less than 40,000 in recent years, with about 60,000 counted in 2019.

As a result, the large Gerrard rainbow and bull trout population virtually disappeared, and with the loss of the trophy fishery, anglers stayed home.

This created a predator pit, for without angling pressure there has been no way to check the increase of immature trout, which continue to impact kokanee populations.

According to an Oct. 2019 Kokanee Recovery Update, “although current catch rates for larger Gerrard trout are very low due to the reduced abundance of kokanee, catch rates for smaller Gerrard trout (\ 2 kg) are very high: higher in the last four years than ever observed.”

For decades, anglers have been encouraged to practice “catch-and-release,” especially for the large, prime spawning Gerrards. The ‘catch and keep’ credo will be a departure for many, but is necessary given the current crisis, says Grunerud.

“There were a few management practices, we went catch and release and they reduced the limits. The fish got smaller, the rainbows and bull trout, but we still have a nice fish out there, just a four pounder not a 20 pounder. Which is okay, but people want the big fish.”

Fisheries management

Conservationists have been trying to reverse the decline by conducting kokanee egg plants and fry release for the past five years. The province also closed the kokanee fishery, and increased the daily quota for rainbow to five per day (two over 50 cm) and bull trout to three, and also opened the bull trout fishery on the Duncan River.

“Our goal with this three-year incentive program is to restore a balance in predator-prey relationships to allow kokanee abundance to increase,” said Grunerud.

Despite a drastic decline in kokanee populations, the bull trout numbers increased by more than 100 per cent between 2015 and 2017, with approximately 3,500 bull trout spawners in 2017 alone.

Bull trout are more effective at feeding in deep water than rainbows, and that is where the kokanee fry and one-year olds go after feeding.

“Bull trout are better adapted to dark conditions, so they’re just hanging out in the deep feeding on kokanee, whereas rainbows aren’t as effective at doing that,” BC Ministry of Forests, Land, and Natural Resource biologist Matt Neufeld told the Times.

Studies indicate that about 95 per cent of kokanee fry don’t last a year, and, in the main lake, suggest that 70 per cent of a bull trout’s diet is kokanee, while rainbows are more adaptable to a diet made up of insects and small kokanee.

“You just can’t recover kokanee when that is happening,” said Neufeld. “So we’re doing a few things, we’re continuing to stock kokanee, but we’re also reducing predation pressure. That’s been done in a few ways, we changed regulations for rainbow trout and bull trout. We’re encouraging people to harvest fish, both rainbows and bull trout.”

Lake Pend Oreille kokanee

Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille experienced a similar kokanee crisis when its population plunged to about 10,000 in 2007.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) took drastic measures, and put a bounty on the kokanee’s prime predators, lake trout and rainbow trout, and also started commercial netting for lake trout.

After nine years of intensive harvest, monitoring showed adult and juvenile lake trout were reduced by over 80 percent since the program began in 2006.

The adult kokanee population grew seven out of the nine years from 2006 through 2014, and it reached 1 million in 2013.

Gunerud says the angler incentive program consulted with the IDFG biologists and hopes for a similar kokanee recovery, but is relying more on angler assistance in making the program a success.

The goal is to increase the number of anglers by at least 10 per cent, and increase rainbow and bull trout retention from 50 per cent of fish caught to 90 per cent.

The kokanee salmon are a keystone species, vital to the whole ecosystem, including the health and survival of eagles, osprey, and other birds, as well as mammals like black bears and grizzly bears, otters and other flora and fauna – not to mention the economic benefit it brings to the Kootenays through tourism and sportfishing.

Exactly how long it will take for the kokanee to rebound and trophy Gerrards return to Kootenay Lake? That’s up to local anglers.

“The kokanee population is starting possibly to climb,” added Gunerud. “If we can get a lot of people out there fishing, and if we can get back up to the normal number of predators being caught – it’s going to take a few years.”

The incentive program is supported by the West Arm Outdoors Club, Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club, BC Wildlife Federation, Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Province.

Drop off depots are at Woodbury Resort, The Gill and Gift (Balfour), Crawford Bay Market, and Wynndell Foods and Outdoor Gear (Creston).

For all the incentive program rules and updates, visit: bcwf.bc.ca/kootenay-lake-angler-incentive-program.



sports@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

British ColumbiaEnvironmentfishingkootenay

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

Grade 7 Trafalgar students show off posters they put up around downtown Nelson with information about residential schools. Photo: Tyler Harper
Trafalgar class puts up residential school history posters downtown

The Grade 7 students made their own websites and QR codes

The Capitol Theatre has been transformed into a courtroom for the trial of Const. Jason Tait that started on Sept. 28 and continues. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Defence begins presenting evidence in Nelson jury trial of RCMP officer

Const. Jason Tait is charged with manslaughter after a Castlegar incident in 2015

The West Kootenay Cycling Coalition says GoByBike Week was a success. Photo: Submitted
A round of applause for GoByBike Week supporters

Nearly 200 cyclists participated

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read