Surveys of kokanee numbers in Okanagan lakes during fall 2013 showed mixed results, but will not impact angling opportunities for the coming season.
Kalamalka Lake did particularly well, with excellent spawner numbers of kokanee and exceptional average size. Some fish caught by anglers approached world record levels. However, the neighbouring lake, Wood Lake, continues to show very low returns due to significant mortality from poor in-lake conditions in 2011. Wood Lake kokanee slightly rebounded from lows measured in 2012, but remain well below historic levels. Therefore, the spring 2014 kokanee opening for Wood Lake will remain brief (April 15 to May 31), with no fishing permitted for the remainder of the year.
Routine surveys of the number of fish returning to spawn along shorelines and in-lake tributaries of the main valley lakes show:
- Okanagan Lake kokanee spawners totalled 126,000. This is a small increase from the poor returns in 2012, but still below average.
- In Kalamalka Lake, kokanee numbers totalled 45,000, which is the highest return since 1994.
- Skaha Lake's total kokanee count is estimated at 18,000, which is the lowest return since 2001.
- Wood Lake kokanee that spawn in Middle Vernon Creek totalled 2,900, counted via a spawner fence set up for this purpose. In addition, standard visual surveys of the Wood Lake shoreline indicated 850 kokanee spawning along the shoreline areas. Totalled, this represents a slight improvement over 2012's result of 2,300 but still very low.
In-lake conditions were excellent for kokanee survival in 2013 and a more substantial kokanee run that should be able to support a full season harvest is expected by 2015, provided conditions remain favourable.
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