The “fin”-tastic kokanee salmon restocking project has kicked off, with egg collections underway at three locations throughout the Kootenays.
The two-year restocking efforts are a collaborative endeavor between the Creston Valley Rod and Gun club, the Lower Kootenay Band, Ministry of Forests and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.
The project was announced in July with a shared goal of replenishing the severely diminished stock of Kokanee salmon in Kootenay Lake.
The project is funded through the province’s destination development fund. Egg collection began at the end of August will take place over the course of 30-days.
A media release from the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club announced that staff with the Freshwater Fisheries Society have been in the midst of collecting eggs at three locations in Hill Creek, north of Nakusp, the Columbia River near Fairmont and at Tyee Lake, north of Williams Lake.
Spawning has been positive at the sites so far, according to the release that said the spawning run channels in Hill Creek are already at full capacity.
Collecting the eggs was explained as a process that involved placing wire traps in flowing water to hold the salmon in place for gender sorting. Eggs were taken from about 10 females at a time and placed in sterile, plastic containers.
From there, eggs were fertilized using sperm from two males. Egg containers were then oxygenated before being transported to the Kootenay trout hatchery in Fort Steele, where they will be incubated for about four to six weeks.
The Rod and Gun Club release said the fertilized eggs will have developed small eyes by early November. The eyed eggs will be transported to release sites, which still have not been finalized, and placed into gravel beds within streams on Kootenay Lake for overwintering.
When hatching occurs in the spring, fry will imprint on the overwintering stream beds as their spawning homes before moving downstream to the lake where they will grow and mature.
A shared goal for the Rod and Gun club and the Lower Kootenay Band is to replenish the salmon stock to increase the presence of Gerrard rainbow Trout, one of the largest species of rainbow trout in the world.
In a previous interview Cathy Fiedler, director of the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club, told Vista Radio that Gerrard rainbow trout can get up to 30 pounds when they feed on kokanee, which she said once used to promote tourism from visitors travelling to the region to for the Gerrard rainbow trout fishing experience.
By increasing the numbers of spawning, the lake’s stock should be replenished which will directly impact local ecosystems, promote tourism and re-signify the cultural importance the kokanee salmon have to the region’s Ktunaxa people.