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These kokanee won’t get away

Fisheries Awareness Day is Sunday,
the peak day of the annual run

by J.P. Squire
The Daily Courier
Thursday, September 1, 1994

More than 100,000 kokanee will fight their way up Mission Creek to spawn — and then die — this year.

More than 10,000 of the landlocked sockeye salmon are expected to spawn in the spawning channel.

Thousands of people are expected at the creek Sunday for Fisheries Awareness Day, sponsored by Central Okanagan fish and game clubs.

The peak of the spawning run, which started about two weeks ago and is expected to last another two or three weeks, will be Sunday.

After they spawn, “the kokanee die and rot, providing nutrients to feed the little critters like small bugs and crayfish who live in the stream,” said Ron Taylor, vice-president of the Okanagan region of the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

“Every resident of the Central Okanagan should take the opportunity to view this phenomena of nature.”

“Many creeks in the Okanagan Lake system will see some kokanee, but the major run will be in Mission Creek,” said Taylor.

Last year, the flow of water down Mission Creek was one of the lowest ever, he said, adding: “There was hardly any water in the main channel.”

Most kokanee return to spawn when they are four years old, he said, so this year’s spawners are the first from the spawning channel built in 1989.

The larger kokanee in this year’s run are five or six years old and would have spawned in the main channel.

Public displays and demonstrations are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Mission Creek Regional Park, also known as Lions Park.

More than 3,000 people attended last year’s event and even more are expected this year.

“This year, the emphasis is on supplying children with information on fish, their habitat and their life cycle,” said Taylor.

Two displays in particular are bound to catch children’s attention.

Youngsters can enter a seven-metre (2-foot) long fibreglass fish and see paintings of fish habitats, he said. A 13-metre (40 foot) long plastic fish will contain educational materials on fish.

In addition, there will be demonstrations of fly fishing and a display by the Westbank Indian Band.

“Brian Jantz from the fisheries branch will strip fish (remove their eggs), put the eggs in a bucket and fertilize them with milt (male fish semen),” said Taylor.

Jantz will use a special pipe to dig under gravel in the spawning channel, pour the fertilized eggs down the pipe and then gently pull the pipe out, he said, similar to two fish mixing their eggs and milt, and then covering up the eggs.

The first 2,000 people arriving at Fisheries Awareness Day will receive free hotdogs prepared by local politicians and provincial fisheries staff.

Dave Narver, director of fisheries in Victoria, and Steve Willett, regional director of wildlife in Kamloops, are planning to attend.

Fishing in the Okanagan “brings in excess of $1 million to the tourist industry,” said Taylor, including the sale of gasoline, boats, boat motors, fishing tackle, food and accommodation.

Two local women are conducting school tours involving 1,500 children during the spawning run. The tours are on Mission, Peachland and Vernon creeks, and were organized by local fish and game clubs.

Like kokanee trying to swim upstream, local fish and game clubs are fighting an uphill battle to upgrade and expand the spawning channel in Mission Creek. S

In 1989, the clubs, local government and provincial Habitat Conservation Fund all contributed toward construction of the $100,000 plus spawning channel located at Mission Creek Regional Park on Springfield Road.

“There was not enough room for all of the fish which wanted to spawn there last year,” said Taylor.

“The headgate (which diverts Mission Creek water into the channel) needs work to maintain an even flow,” he said, “and there is a leak somewhere in the channel, about one-third of the way down.”

Last year, local fish and game clubs submitted a $475,000 upgrade-expansion proposal to the Habitat Conservation Fund, but it was turned down.

“We wanted to redo the the whole thing, to make it bigger and longer, with a new bridge,” said Taylor.

The project has since been downsized to about $200,000 and will be resubmitted to fund officials this fall. This time, a video on the spawning channel will accompany the application.