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Spawning kokanee counted in Okanagan, numbers vary per lake: Ministry report

Kokanee salmon spawning in a creek. Blaine Gaffney / Global News

The number of spawning kokanee in main lakes in the Okanagan have been counted.

A report released by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Rural Development this week shows fluctuating numbers.

For example, kokanee spawners in Okanagan Lake totalled 396,326 — up from last year’s total of 315,240.

And stream-spawning kokanee totalled 81,086, up 13 per cent from last year.

Read more: Kokanee Salmon return to Hardy Falls Regional Park for spawning season

The ministry also said Mission Creek had an impressive return with 43,017, which is 60 per cent of total stream spawners.

In Kalamalka Lake, kokanee numbers totalled 67,425. However, the ministry noted that the number of kokanee in Coldstream Creek returning this year continues to be low — 50 per cent of the 10-year average.

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In Skaha Lake, the number of kokanee and sockeye counted were 35,000. This is a 30 per cent decline from last year and 70 per cent below the 10-year average.

According to the ministry, these low numbers could be attributed to poor ocean survival.

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Wood Lake also saw a significant reduction in kokanee returns for 2021, with only 10,736 fish. Stream spawners accounted for 9,728 fish, a 45 per cent drop since last year.

Due to the low number of returning kokanee, the ministry says it will reassess the catch limits for the Wood Lake recreational fishery in 2022.

Read more: Early drawdown of Okanagan Lake compromised fish restoration efforts, says BC Wildlife Federation

According to the report, the province is continuing to work with the District of Lake Country, Oceola Fish and Game Club and the Okanagan Indian Band to improve water management and spawning conditions in Middle Vernon Creek.

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Kokanee salmon are land-locked sockeye salmon found in all of the Okanagan’s main lakes.

The ministry says with the help of their partners, it will continue efforts to restore spawning and rearing habitats to ensure the long-term health of the kokanee population.

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