The Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program is designed to help the iconic kokanee salmon population recover after their collapse in 2013. In 2017, only 12,000 spawners were estimated in the main lake. Conservationists have been trying to reverse the decline by conducting kokanee egg plants and fry release for the past five years.
The high in-lake abundance of rainbow and bull trout is suppressing the survival of the kokanee, the primary food source of these predators. The incentive program encourages anglers to catch and retain rainbow and bull trout while giving the juvenile kokanee a chance to grow.
In June, one lucky winner will be drawn from the rainbow and bull trout submissions to win a $50,000 Kingfisher boat and trailer package.
The March, April and May $1,000 gift certificates are still to be drawn too – there are plenty of opportunities to win.
Guy Rook from Sanca Creek on the east side of Kootenay Lake took home the February monthly draw for $1000 worth of gift certificates from the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program.
Rook’s been fishing on the lake since 2017 and gets out about 20 times a year. He submitted six heads to the Wynndel Foods & Outdoor depot.
“We had a really fun late spring fishing with lots of action and then recently a couple of weeks ago the fishing was very active,” Rook said. “I haven’t noticed a change in fish size over the past couple of years, and we have definitely caught more fish, but maybe it’s because I learn something each time I’m out!”
West Arm Outdoors Club President Gord Grunerud said, “The sports fishery on Kootenay Lake was once renowned for its stock of large Gerrard rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. We want to get back to a robust sports fishery in our region.
"Our goal with this three-year incentive program is to restore a balance in predator/prey relationships to allow kokanee abundance to increase,” Grunerud adds.
January 2021 Kootenay Lake Kokanee Recovery Update
The January 2021 Kootenay Lake Kokanee Recovery Update, published by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Kootenay-Boundary Resource Management Unit stated, “Once kokanee survival improves as a result of fewer predators, kokanee abundance will increase quite rapidly.
"We need to continue harvesting predators until we hit that tipping point.”
The number of main lake kokanee spawners typically ranges between 250,000 and 2 million. Low survival rates of kokanee in the main lake have reduced spawner numbers to less than 40,000 in recent years, with approximately 90,000 counted in 2020.