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Research work being conducted on the Kokanee Shoal Spawners

Editor, The Nelson Daily

You are likely familiar with the brilliant red color that the kokanee salmon turn in the fall when they are spawning in creeks and rivers in the area. Did you know that kokanee can also be found spawning on the beaches of some of our lakes?

These are kokanee that are called “shoal spawners”, and are found scattered throughout the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

The Columbia Operations Fisheries Advisory Committee or COFAC, is a group that is currently studying how Kootenay Lake water levels affect the spawning success of the shoal spawning kokanee.

COFAC has representation from provincial and federal fisheries regulators, First Nations, and hydroelectric operators from the Columbia River system in Canada. It provides a structured forum for the exchange of information regarding the coordination of activities related to the operation of hydroelectric projects that are relevant to fisheries.

The purpose of the present study is threefold; to determine whether kokanee shoal spawners are genetically distinct from creek spawners; to verify the abundance of spawners in this peak spawning year and todetermine if operational changes in the Kootenay Lake reservoir results in fewer dewatered redds, or fish nests, that are created when the fish spawn.

In order to conduct this study, hydroelectric system operators acted to draw down the water levels to 1742 ft at Queen’s Bay for a one-month trial period.

The lower water level during the mid-September to mid-October spawning period will force the fish to deposit their eggs at a lower elevation on the beach.

The reservoir will then be allowed to fill again for the winter.

Come spring, when the fish are emerging from their eggs and when the reservoir is drawn down to make room for spring melt, the expectation is that fewer redds will be stranded high and dry beach.

This means a higher survival rate for the shoal spawning kokanee.

COFAC is looking for your help in identifying the location of shoal spawning kokanee on the Kootenay Lake.

If you see kokanee spawning on the lake shore, call the B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch at 250-354-6333 and report approximately how many kokanee you see, and the precise location where you saw them on the lake.

Maureen DeHaan

Columbia Operations Fisheries Advisory Committee Chair