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Kokanee salmon restocking coming to Kootenay Lake

A local fish species is getting a “fin” up.

The Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club, in partnership with the Ministry of Forests, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, and the Lower Kootenay Band, will be spearheading the stocking of kokanee salmon in Kootenay Lake.

Thanks to funding from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, careful stocking of the lake will hopefully help restore the Gerrard rainbow trout fishery on Kootenay Lake.

Cathy Fiedler, director of the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club, says multiple steps will be taken by various groups.

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“Some of these actions include nutrient restoration, predator control, there are angler incentive programs, and there’ll be monitoring of the lake as well.”

The Rod and Gun Club will be directly involved with collecting and stocking the kokanee salmon eggs.

“That will in turn help drive the recovery of the kokanee populations into the lake.”

Additionally, the club will be installing interpretive signage at two locations on Kootenay Lake.

Fiedler says the signs will detail the fish’s history.

“That signage will help to illustrate the historical and cultural importance of the kokanee to the Ktunaxa people.”

The Lower Kootenay Band and the Freshwater Fishery Society of BC will be collecting eggs at three locations over about a 30-day period starting near the end of August.

The eggs will then be transported to the kokanee trout hatchery facility, where they will be incubated for roughly six to eight weeks.

“Eggs will then be manually sorted to remove dead ones, then they will be transported to release sites. Those plant locations will be on the Kootenay Lake tributaries.”

The release sites have yet to be finalized. They will be selected through discussions with the Lower Kootenay Band.

However, Fiedler says Meadow Creek, the Goat River, and Crawford Creek could be potential sites.

She adds it will be a two-year program, with the stocking of the eggs back into the lake taking place in November.

Fielder says the fish are a vital part of the ecosystem.

“Kokanee salmon are an important food course for the Gerrard rainbow trout. When Gerrard rainbow trout feed on the kokanee, they can actually end up weighing 30 pounds.”

Gerrard rainbow trout, named after the BC ghost town, are listed as some of the largest rainbow trout in the world.

Fiedler says the Kootenay Lake Gerrard rainbow trout fishery was responsible for about $6 million in direct annual expenditures up until 2011.

She adds the fish also made Kootenay Lake an angular dream destination.

“In 2012, the fishery had been severely downgraded from its once renowned world-class status. So, our project aims to support collecting and stalking kokanee eggs to drive the fishery recovery and ultimately increase tourism.”

She adds the other goal of the project is to teach people about the cultural significance of the kokanee salmon to the Ktunaxa.

“It will be our responsibility to provide data on the progress of the project and to maintain communication with the Ministry of Tourism, our partners, and the public.”

Anyone interested in the progress of the project can check the Creston Valley Rod and Gun website closer to the spawning of the fish.

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