Responding to dwindling kokanee salmon stocks in the Okanagan's Wood Lake, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has implemented additional regulatory restrictions for the 2013 season.
The new regulations for Wood Lake are as follows:
- The kokanee fishery will be open from April 15 to May 31 only.
- Each angler will have a daily quota of two kokanee.
- No fishing for kokanee is permitted the rest of the year.
- The fishery may be halted early or extended, subject to in-season monitoring data. To confirm dates, please visit: www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/fish/regulations
Wood Lake is Canada's premier kokanee fishery, garnering in excess of 10,000 angler days of fishing time each summer. However, in 2011, poor in-lake conditions led to significantly increased mortality rates for kokanee of all ages. In 2011, the number of kokanee returning to spawn was 6,300, well below the average of approximately 14,000. In 2012, only 2,300 fish returned, the worst result on record dating back to 1994. Acoustic trawl surveys supported by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund indicate that 2013 and 2014 returns will be very low as well, prompting this year's action to limit the fishery.
In-lake conditions were excellent for kokanee survival in 2012, and a more substantial kokanee run that should be able to support a full season harvest is expected by 2015, provided conditions remain favourable.
Routine surveys of the number of fish returning to spawn along shorelines and tributaries of the other main valley lakes in the Okanagan revealed the following:
- Okanagan Lake kokanee spawners totalled 98,000. This is a sharp decline from exceptionally high numbers in 2011 and the lowest return since 2004.
- In Kalamalka Lake, kokanee numbers totalled 19,000, which is an average return for that lake.
- Skaha Lake had a total kokanee count of 35,000, which is very similar to run numbers for the past four years.
Kokanee salmon are land-locked sockeye salmon found in all of the Okanagan main valley lakes. They represent a fishery resource and an important part of the natural ecosystem. The ministry and its partners will continue their efforts to restore spawning and rearing habitats and ensure the long-term health of kokanee populations.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Dr. Paul Askey