The first lucky winner of the new Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program is local Dave Johnston from Grey Creek. Johnston picked up the June prize of gift certificates to local businesses worth $1,000 from the Gill & Gifts depot. In the first month of the program, there were 2082 rainbow and bull trout heads submitted.
Johnston said, “the word is out in the community; people are talking about it as it’s a spectacular prize!” Johnston had an active day on the lake before submitting his heads through the Crawford Bay depot. A long-time resident, he remembers fishing for plentiful kokanee on Kootenay Lake in the 1980s. “I’d like to see the fishery come back to its glory,” he said.
With the COVID-19 restrictions, Johnston has seen more people fishing from shore and their favourite spots along the lake. “Getting out in nature is a beautiful experience, and fishing keeps you amused, whether you are isolated or socializing.” While he usually smokes his trout with their heads on, Johnston was happy to sacrifice the heads for kokanee recovery, even before becoming the June winner.
The BCWF and its local member club, the West Arm Outdoors Club, are managing this angler incentive program for an entire year with monthly draws worth $1,000 and a grand prize of a boat and motor valued at over $50,000. The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) awarded the local club a grant of $50,000 to encourage anglers to fish again on the lake. The goal is to help with the recovery of the main lake kokanee population that has been severely depressed for nearly a decade due to an overpopulation of rainbow and bull trout. The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) joined the program by providing funds for the monthly draw and the grand prize. The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and Jones Boys Boats at Woodbury Creek on the lake are also partners. Four local businesses around the lake have established depots for receiving the heads.
Distribution of June entries:
Gill & Gift 709. Woodbury Resort. 438. Wynndel Foods 648. Crawford Bay Market. 287
President of the local West Arm Outdoors Club Gordon Grunerud is very happy with the results of the first month. “We didn’t know how interested anglers would be with this project, but after the first month, I am now certain that anglers want to help return Kootenay Lake back to the days of 15-20 lb. rainbows”. To get these sizes of fish, we need to increase kokanee numbers greatly. By decreasing the trout and char numbers for a couple of years, the kokanee should start to increase in numbers. Our local clubs, especially the Creston Rod and Gun Club, have really pitched in to ensure the project is a success.”
BCWF Past President Harvey Andrusak is a professional fisheries biologist and West Arm Outdoors Club member who is assisting with data analysis and collaboration with local Ministry fisheries biologists. Andrusak stated that the first month’s results far exceed all expectations, and the project will easily attain the HCTF project target of 3,000 fish over and above the 2019 level. It is now expected the HCTF target will be exceeded by mid-September. Andrusak stated, “it looks like we have accomplished our first objective of getting more anglers back on the lake and that if the trend continues, there may well be a positive result on kokanee recovery earlier than expected.”
Andrusak reports that two minor problems so far include a few anglers submitting kokanee heads by mistake and a reminder that rainbows and bull trout caught in the West Arm are not eligible for the draw.
The BCWF encourages its members and the general public to get out onto the lake, enjoy the spectacular scenery Kootenay Lake offers and enjoy outings with family and friends while practicing safe distancing.
To learn more about the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program click here!