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Kokanee spawning in troubled waters

by Rob Munro
Courier Staff
Kelowna Daily Courier
Wednesday, December 2, 1992

Kokanee spawning in Okanagan creeks will probably never reach the peaks of past years, but things are getting better.

“We’re still in the basement but, hopefully, we’re climbing out the backside,” Bruce Shepherd, fisheries biologist with the Ministry of the Environment, said today.

In the 1970s almost one million fish spawned in Okanagan creeks. That plummeted to 111,000 by 1990 and has slowly climbed to 182,000 this year.

“We’re water short in the Okanagan,” Shepherd said. “Their habitat has been destroyed quite drastically.”

Spawning areas that haven’t been damaged by development have usually had significant amounts of water taken from them for agriculture or domestic use, he said. Many streams flow through residential areas with storm sewers emptying into them.

Shepherd is hoping for another $500,000 to improve the Mission Creek spawning channel in the next few years and, hopefully, double its capacity.

Mission Creek took almost 100,000 fish this year, with the spawning channel filled to its capacity of 36,000 fish.

That’s still a long way from the 300,000 recorded in the 1970s.

Shepherd doesn’t want all the spawning to come from Mission Creek. It’s important to spread it around to other creeks, he said.

Peachland Creek more than doubled its run this year to 7,800 and a fishway on Powers Creek made it easier for fish to get upstream. That count increased by about 3,000 to 20,700.

Shepherd is pleased with co-operation from native Indians in allowing, for the first time, Ministry of Environment staff to visit creeks on reserves.

Spawning fish in three streams along the north arm of Okanagan Lake were counted for the first time in 20 years, adding almost 11,000 to the total count.

The creeks were Whiteman, Equesis (Six Mile) and Nashwito (Siwash). That work was part of a joint project involving the Westbank Indian Council, Okanagan Indian Band and Okanagan Regional Wildlife Heritage Fund Society.

The Indians are becoming more involved with the fishery so Shepherd hopes for improvements along those creeks in the future.