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Early kokanee returns look good in spite of warmer than normal water temperature

The count was 1300 fish in the Kokanee creek Wednesday. — Suzy Hamilton file photo, The Nelson Daily

Things are looking good for the West Kootenay Eco Society’s annual Redfish Festival taking place on Sunday, August 30, at Kokanee Park despite worries about warmer than normal water temperatures affecting the numbers of Kokanee Salmon returning to the West Arm to spawn.

The Redfish Festival is the fourth of its kind put on by the West Kootenay Eco Society and will feature live music, tasty treats from local food vendors and guided tours of the channel.

However, the festival wouldn’t have much substance without its namesake, the Kokanee Redfish Salmon, making an appearance.

There were concerns that this summer’s scorching heat and warm waters would affect the numbers of the fish, who return to the area this time of year to lay their eggs.

Luckily for visitors looking to participate in this weekend’s fun, it looks like there will be plenty of Redfish in the lake.

“Things are looking great. As of yesterday we had counted 1300 fish in the creek,” said David Reid, Executive Director for the West Kootenay Eco Society.

“Today’s count was 1815, and there have been lots of fish seen coming into the channel,” Reid said.

Reid continued by saying that while some fish are dying off after they’ve spawned, this is normal behaviour.

Though numbers can’t be fully analyzed until the end of September, it appears that the steps taken by ecologists and locals have garnered some success in ensuring a prosperous spawning season. 

Jeff Burrows, Senior Fish Biologist with the Ministry of Forests lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) explained to the Nelson Daily what these efforts entailed.

“We will divert more water from Kokanee and Redfish Creeks into the spawning channels (all water returns back to the natural stream channel a short distance downstream of the point of diversion) to ensure adequate flows for spawning in the spawning channels, where egg-to-fry survival is highest.”

Burrows also mentioned some tips for guests visiting the park and how they can help maintain healthy population numbers and encourage spawning to continue.

“We’d ask the public to help in ensuring that spawning kokanee remain unmolested – for example, in recent years unsupervised dogs have been in the spawning channels chasing spawning kokanee. This causes unnecessary and avoidable stress and mortality.”

The Redfish Festival takes place on Sunday, August 30th, and runs from 11-6. On top of all the other activities, visitors will be able to “learn more about these wonderful fish who return year after year, how they are the key to the web of life, and what we can do to protect them.”

For more information on the event, check out the website.