Rick Taylor has lived on Kootenay Lake for 40 years and has seen some ups and downs in fish numbers and size but says that the last few years have been catastrophic for the kokanee numbers.
The Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program (KLAIP) is designed to help the iconic kokanee salmon population recover after their collapse in 2013.
Anglers are invited to keep their catch of rainbow or bull trout and drop off the heads at one of four Kootenay Lake depots. Each head submitted is entered into a monthly draw worth $1,000, and a grand prize draw in June 2021 for an 18-foot Kingfisher boat worth over $50,000.
Taylor is the November prize draw winner, receiving $1,000 in gift certificates that supports local businesses.
Conservationists have been trying to reverse the decline by conducting kokanee egg plants and fry release for the past five years. The high in-lake abundance of rainbow and bull trout is suppressing the survival of the kokanee, the primary food source of these predators.
The incentive program impacts the “predator pit” that Kootenay Lake has been challenged by – the predators continue to keep kokanee numbers in a depensatory state at historically low numbers (50,000 spawners). Predation is so intensive that kokanee fry-to-adult survival is extremely low and, therefore, are continued low spawner numbers.
Even the predators themselves have been impacted by such low numbers of kokanee. For example, Gerrard rainbow trout spawners that typically weighed 5-7 kg are now less than 2 kg.
The incentive program encourages anglers to catch and retain rainbow and bull trout while giving the juvenile kokanee a chance to grow.
The KLAIP was made possible by a grant from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) to the BCWF and a generous donation of the grand prize from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and Jones Marina.
HCTF is a conservation organization independent of the government and is funded from surcharges on annual fishing and hunting licences.