The Columbia Operations Fisheries Advisory Committee (COFAC) is looking to the public for help in identifying spawning kokanee.
But not the land-locked salmon you see spawning in Kootenay Lake tributaries, these kokanee are “shoal spawners” that spawn on the gravel beaches throughout the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.
According to Sheila Street, Environmental Program Lead for FortisBC and member of COFAC, the committee is “currently studying how Kootenay Lake water levels affect the spawning success of the shoal-spawning kokanee.”
From mid-September to mid-October, dam operators will draw down the water levels to 1,742 feet at Queen’s Bay for the one-month period. The lower levels will cause kokanee to lay their eggs at a lower elevation so that when the dams raise the water level for the winter, more eggs or redds will survive.
“Come spring, when the fish are emerging from their eggs and when the reservoir is drawn down to make room for spring melt, the expectation is that fewer redds will be stranded,” explained Street in the release. “This means a higher survival rate for the shoal spawning kokanee.”
Beachcombers, paddlers, and anglers can help with the study by calling the B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch at 250-354-6333 if kokanee are spotted spawning on the lake shore. Report approximately how many kokanee you see, and the precise location where you saw them on the lake.
COFAC is comprised of representatives from provincial and federal fisheries regulators, First Nations, and hydroelectric operators from the Columbia River system in B.C.