An Okanagan fishery is making a dramatic turnaround.
The 2015 fall survey shows kokanee numbers were up in Okanagan, Kalamalka and Wood lakes.
“It’s really positive,” said Hillary Ward, fisheries stock assessment biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
After poor conditions resulted in numbers plummeting in Wood Lake in 2001, more than 20,000 kokanee returned to spawn in Middle Vernon Cree, the lake’s main tributary. This is a two-fold increase from previous years.
“They are getting better and we’re seeing get back to historic levels,” said Ward.
As a result, the ministry will permit a fishery on Wood Lake from April 1 to Aug. 31, 2016.
Among the factors that led to poor Wood Lake returns in 2001 were warm lake water with challenges along Middle Vernon Creek.
On Okanagan Lake this year, kokanee spawners totalled 336,500, an increase from 80,500 last year. This is the highest return since 1992.
“There may be favourable climatic conditions for the kokanee,” said Ward, adding that habitat enhancement has also helped.
Stream-spawning kokanee in Okanagan Lake totalled 31,500 and there were 305,000 shore-spawning fish.
In Kalamalka Lake, kokanee numbers totalled 36,500, well above the 10-year average return of 20,000.
While pleased with the 2015 returns, Ward admits there still needs to be work to ensure the valley’s kokanee population is sustainable.
“We are continuing to work on several habitat projects, They include a Middle Vernon Creek action plan,” she said.