Anglers, wildlife experts have fingers crossed record summer temperatures don't slow Redfish return to spawning grounds
With this summer set to be one of the warmest on record, concerns about the numbers of Redfish set to return to spawning grounds in the West Arm of Kootenay Lake have anglers and wildlife experts worried.
It’s not news for anyone that lives in the Kootenays that this summer has felt just a bit warmer than previous years. As humans, we are blessed with the ability to escape inside and cool off with a cold beverage in an air-conditioned house.
Unfortunately for Kokanee Redfish looking to travel home and lay eggs, higher than usual water temperatures are hitting them hard and making this process a risky endeavor.
The Nelson Daily spoke with Jeff Burrows, Senior Fish Biologist for the Ministry of Forests lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) to see if there was any legitimate cause for concern.
“Yes we do have concerns about stream flows and especially about warmer than usual water for West Arm kokanee spawners this year,” Burrows said.
“Water temperatures above 12 or 13 degrees for a sustained period can cause higher rates of pre-spawning mortality.
“So, some mature kokanee are dying before they get a chance to spawn and this increases at higher water temperatures.”
Various steps have been taken to combat the ill effects, including the closing of the Upper West Arm kokanee harvest fishery in July, and the minimizing of handling live kokanee for biological sampling this year, to reduce stress and post handling mortality.
Anglers worried about this affecting their favourite past time needn’t stress too much. While there have been temporary restrictions placed on certain streams and rivers, the lakes remain unaffected.
“Generally, in large and small lakes sport fish have cool deeper water refuges even in hot summers, and they use those refuges. Cool water habitat isn’t necessarily as available in streams especially when flows are low as they are this year,” Burrows said.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom.
Joanne Siderius, naturalist at the Kokanee Creek Visitors Centre told The Nelson Daily that the numbers seen so far seem to match those from last year.
“People on the lake saying there were a lot, potentially hundreds. It’s still pretty early but so far the date is right. From my limited knowledge it looks normal so far,“ Siderius said.
Burrows echoed these sentiments, telling The Nelson Daily that spawn numbers for West Arm Kokanee are expected to produce good numbers of eggs for the fall, but we won’t know for sure until the spawning season ends in late September.
“There are kokanee to see right now at Kokanee Creek Park. They appear in excellent condition and some are large. It’s too early to tell how many there will be in the complete run, but we will find out over the next several weeks.”