The Freshwater Fisheries Society of British Columbia (FFSBC) is once again planning to capture kokanee on the Columbia River near the Riverside Golf Course in Fairmont beginning in early September. The intent of this program is to collect the eggs from kokanee returning to their spawning grounds in the upper Columbia River and in tributaries to Columbia Lake such as Dutch Creek and Findlay Creek. The eggs collected will be used to enhance the kokanee population in Kootenay Lake, which has declined to near historic lows in recent years.
The genetics of the kokanee in the Columbia system closely match the genetics of the kokanee indigenous to Kootenay Lake, so biologists prefer to use Columbia River kokanee to enhance the Kootenay Lake population. Historically, the spawning channel on Meadow Creek at the north end of Kootenay Lake, along with the Lardeau River which also flows into the north end of Kootenay Lake, has been one of the main contributors to the Kootenay Lake kokanee population. In 2015, fewer than 10,000 adult kokanee returned to the spawning channel, not nearly enough to sustain the lake population. Some population models indicate at least 65,000 spawning adults are needed to maintain Kootenay Lake kokanee numbers. Although 2016 adult numbers were higher, it may take several more years of enhancement by artificial planting of the collected eggs in the Meadow Creek spawning channel to reach a self-sustaining number.
Under the direction of Province of British Columbia biologists, the kokanee trapping operation on the Columbia will be carried out by staff from the Kootenay Trout Hatchery. The trapping operation requires that a full fence and trap be placed at an optimum location in the river near the Riverside Golf Course prior to the arrival of the first kokanee. In order to minimize the impact on tubers, kayakers and other recreational users on the river, the hatchery staff will only place a simple barrier several hundred meters downstream of the tube and kayak pullout on August 30th. This barrier will prevent any kokanee from swimming upstream and will remain in place until after Labour Day. After the Labour Day weekend, the barricade will be removed and the full fence and trap will be put in place further upstream near the golf course. Adult capture and spawning will most likely continue through September.
In order to maintain the integrity of the Columbia River kokanee population, which spend their juvenile years in the Kinbasket Reservoir, staff will allow a minimum of 20,000 adults to move upstream of the fence to spawn naturally before collecting any eggs. In addition, staff will pass 50% of the daily trapped numbers upstream. For more information please contact the Kootenay Trout Hatchery at 250-429-3214.