A six-week kokanee fishing season on Wood Lake, considered Canada’s premier kokanee fishery, saw the number of fish harvested this year decrease significantly from 2013 levels.
It was the first of at least three straight years kokanee fishing in Wood Lake will be limited to April 15 to May 31 as fisheries biologists work to try and revive a fishery that began seeing a drastic downturn in the number of kokanee spawners in 2011.
This year’s shorter opening was designed to give anglers a chance to fish for kokanee while at the same time collecting data from angler surveys.
The 2014 Wood Lake Creel Survey indicated the catch rate and the size of fish being caught this year was down from 2013 with the average fish caught measuring 13.7 inches (34.9 cm) and weighing 1.14 pounds. The total number of fish caught was down significantly when compared to the same time the previous year.
“Based on our model for estimating overall angler effort and harvest, the total angling effort during the 2014 kokanee season increased, but the estimated number of fish harvested decreased significantly in 2014,” said Eric Hegerat, a B.C. government fisheries biologist. Hegerat says in 2013 there were an estimated 1,470 fish harvested while 2014’s total harvest is estimated at 860 fish.
The crash of the Wood Lake fishery began in 2011 when the number of kokanee returning to spawn was just 6,300, well below the average of about 14,000 fish. The next year was worse with only 2,300 kokanee returning in 2012, the worst result dating back to 1994. In 2013 the numbers were steady with about 2,800 kokanee returning while fish returns were predicted to be low as well this year, prompting the government to limit the fishery to six weeks.
“In 2011 poor in-lake conditions led to significantly increased mortality rates for kokanee of all ages,” said Tara White, senior fisheries biologist. “Angler harvest does not appear to be the cause of the downturn, yet with spawner escapement so low, excessive mortality due to angler harvest could extend the period of low abundance for more generations.”
White added that a shorter opening should benefit the Wood Lake fishery adding there were good levels of fish under a year old caught last year, pointing to a possible recovery of the fishery by 2015. However she said the shorter opening will allow for younger fish to survive for future years of the fishery.
“A standardized spring opening is set for the next two years so some fishing opportunity is available and important data can be collected,” she said, adding its an important lake for the area’s economy and sport-fishing opportunities. “Wood Lake (historically) garners in excess of 10,000 angler days of fishing each summer—about $1 million to the local economy each year.”
The next opening for Wood Lake fishing is April 15 to May 31, 2015.