By Breanne Massey
After three years of research and planning, the Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club recently spent approximately two days working to remove a man-made barrier that prevented fish from swimming upstream to spawn at Abel Creek.
Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club volunteer Ben Mitchell-Banks, who managed the Abel Creek Fishery Enhancement Project, has since recorded three species of fish moving through the area.
It means that theres now four times more habitat for Kokanee, Salmon and Rainbow Trout than there was before, said Mr. Mitchell-Banks. It was a man-made barrier so we, humans, created it and now its restored. What that will mean in the future is those populations of fish that spawn in that system will be able to grow in size.
Previously, the fish were spawning below the barrier in 885 metres of the accessible stream, but they were blocked from accessing another 3,300 metres of usable habitat above the barrier. Now, theres hope that the fish will be able to spawn in the area located above where the barrier has been removed that provides a flat area that is more suitable for procreating.
Theres a better habitat above the barrier than there was below it, continued Mr. Mitchell-Banks. Its steeper going up to the barrier and once youre above the barrier on Johnson Road, then Abel Creek levels out and theres a much better spawning habitat than there was below.
Mr. Mitchell-Banks believes the outcome could positively impact the Columbia Valley and its surroundings.
What it could mean is that in 20 years, which sounds like a long time, there would be four generational rotations of the Kokanee that we could see, he said. There could be a much larger spawning population in that creek.
But the scope of the project wasnt always clearly defined.
There were two challenges, explained Mitchell-Banks. One was getting the (federal and regional) funding (for the project) and all of the permits we needed because we had to get Water Act approvals.
The Regional District of East Kootenays Kootenay Conservation Program contributed $5,000 plus the Fisheries and Oceans Canadas Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program contributed $11,000 to the Abel Creek Fish Enhancement Project.
There is clearly marked signage for visitors to learn about the Abel Creek Fishery Enhancement Project at both the site of the barrier removal and at the footbridge at the bottom of Johnson Road.
The next step of the project, Mr. Mitchell-Banks added, will be to ensure passage through the creek remains open to the fish.
We want to make sure all of the culverts are passable and next, we will be looking for ways to control siltation off the roadways into the creek because right now, theres siltation off Johnson into Abel Creek, he concluded. Now that were going to have spawning fish up there, thats a more important issue to look at.
With files from Nicole Trigg and Kevin Nimmock