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Returning kokanee are getting smaller

by Don Plant
The Daily Courier
September 27, 1993

The kokanee swimming up Okanagan creeks just aren’t the same size as when Stephen Burnell was a lad.

Burnell and his brother used to snare and gaff fish out of Mill Creek as far back as 1919. It was against the law, of course, but the Depression was an exceptional time.

“You had to get something to eat,” Burnell recalled as dozens of parents and children scrambled for a better view of kokanee struggling up Mission Creek’s spawning channel on Sunday. “You had to do things you weren’t supposed to do in those days.”

The average size of an adult kokanee back then was at least 35 centimetres (14 inches). On Sunday, the average size of the same breed of fish was about 10 cm (3 1/2 inches) smaller.

“I’m surprised by how small they are, and I don’t know why,” he said to fisheries technician Brian Jantz. “These are like minnows.”

The smaller size has to do with the amount of feed available in Okanagan Lake, said Jantz. The more kokanee there are, the less feed there is to go around.

“Also, some may be three-year-old spawners as opposed to four-year-olds. We used to have more older, larger fish,” he says.