SALMON TRAP--The Kootenay Trout Hatchery erected this fence across the Columbia River in Fairmont to trap Kokanee salmon.  Photo submitted

SALMON TRAP–The Kootenay Trout Hatchery erected this fence across the Columbia River in Fairmont to trap Kokanee salmon.Photo submitted

A fence put up across the Columbia River in Fairmont caught tubers and kayakers by surprise Monday, inciting questions about why and by whom it was erected.

It was later learned that the Kootenay Trout Hatchery put the fence up across the river as part of a Kootenay Lake enhancement project aimed at enhancing the Kokanee salmon stock in the Kootenay Lake.

The fence first came to the attention of George Greenside, owner of Fairmont Outpost & Outdoors, early Tuesday morning when he alerted the RCMP of its existence.

There were no signs, which kind of created confusion for everyone, Columbia Valley RCMP Const. Francois Mazerolle told The Pioneer. People thought it might be an illegal fence.

I was just very concerned because I had children going down there on the river. If (the hatchery is) going to be doing stuff like that, I have no problem with that, but they should at least have some signage in there indicating why its there, Mr. Greenside said.

Owen Schoenberger, hatchery manager at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery, said that when they set up the fence on Monday, they had planned to put up proper signage upstream and at the fence to alert floaters or kayakers that there would be a fence in place. Unfortunately, though, the signs were not put up prior to the public becoming aware of the fence.

The fence along the Columbia River is one of four throughout the Kootenay region as part of a project aimed at catching Kokanee salmon and collecting up to seven million eggs to repopulate Kootenay Lake. The fences are constructed as barriers to trap the fish so that staff from the hatchery are able to collect the adult salmon and assess their health in hopes of retrieving the eggs.

There are similar fences located on the Norbury and Bull rivers with another located on the Lussier River near Skookumchuck. Mr. Schoenberger said this is the first time they are using the Columbia River for their collection process after discovering that the populations of Kokanee in the river were the closest genetically to the fish in the Kootenay Lake.

As of The Pioneers press time on Wednesday, the fence had been taken down and not by hatchery staff, confirmed Mr. Schoenberger. He added that theyre not planning on erecting a new fence until Tuesday after the long weekend. Mr. Greenside said he is happy with the decision, and expects many will be floating their way down the river over the long weekend.

Frankly, the fish are always going to keep coming. Whether they miss a couple hundred of them or a couple thousand of them, it doesnt matter because theres millions of them that come up here, he said.

Despite this, Mr. Schoenberger said there is still the possibility that the fence will have to go back up before the long weekend is over.

Our senior managers have had some discussion and that is our current plan, to not (re-install) the fence until Tuesday, he said. However were going to monitor the river daily for any adult fish migrating up the stream and if at some point between now and then we see any large numbers of fish moving up, we may have to install the fence again, obviously with plenty of signage and notification for tubers and kayakers.