Skip to main content

Viability of OK Lake fishery discussed

by Dave Henshaw
Daily Courier Wire Editor
Tuesday, January 22, 1991

The fate of the Okanagan Lake fishery was the prime topic Saturday at the annual meeting of the Okanagan region of the British Columbia Wildlife Federation.

The key issue, identified by both the fisheries committee and Fish and Wildlife branch spokesmen, was ensuring the viability of the fishery.

Wildlife region fisheries chairman Frank Shannon said in a report that possible closure of the Skaha kokanee hatchery due to lack of funds must not come about.

“Those kokanee are sorely needed to complete the Okanagan kokanee program to 1995,” he said. He urged all member fish and wildlife clubs to oppose the closure by pressuring local MLAs.

Concern about possible loss of some funding for the Okanagan Lake management plan through 1995 also prompted Shannon to say money must be made available without cutbacks.

“Politicians and fisheries people must be continually reminded that the goal is a major trophy rainbow fishery which will bring in $10 million to $15 million a year of new business to the Okanagan Valley,” his report said.

Dave Narver, director of recreational fisheries for the Ministry of Environment, said fish now in the hatchery will be raised to the point where they can be released into Mission Creek, site of a key kokanee spawning channel.

He said no funds have yet been identified for 1991, supposedly the last year of the five-year pilot hatchery project.

There were no direct funds allocated for the hatchery last year. It was run out of what is called “minister’s funds.”

“Right now, there are no funds available,” he said, but he would like to see it operate for another year.

Narver said a recent look at Mission Creek convinced ministry staff the spawning capacity has to be improved.

To that end, he said $50,000 has been allocated for Mission Creek and $25,000 for improvements to the Peachland Creek spawning channel.

Further, he has directed a plan be done to double Mission Creek spawning.

Current estimate of the Okanagan Lake kokanee population is 18 million, with the Skaha hatchery adding between 600,000 and one million a year.

Narver said the goal is to have a lake that is not dependent upon a hatchery. “Our technical people think there are enough out there now to carry the fishery,” he said.

Chris Bull, head of the fisheries section in Penticton, said “our best guess is that the decline in fish stocks is going to turn around.”

He said the estimate of the kokanee population four years ago was nine million.

There are apparently 18 million now, but he told the meeting he would like to see hatchery stocking continue for a few years, partly because he is not that comfortable with the technical data based mainly upon echo sounding from a research boat.

Ron Taylor, regional vice-president of the wildlife federation, said his Oceola Fish and Game Club in Winfield is willing to help fund the hatchery. He suggested an approach for funds might be made to chambers of commerce because they are the people who benefit from an improved fishery.

Mike Edall of Okanagan Falls was elected president of the Okanagan region. Ron Taylor of Winfield is vice-president and Len Michalkow, also of Winfield, is treasurer.