Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fisheries managers open bull trout on Duncan River in effort to help Kootenay Lake kokanee

The kokanee salmon numbers are rising slowly but surely on Kootenay Lake, and fisheries managers are taking additional steps to help them recover. 
Effective Oct. 5, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) reversed the freshwater fishing regulations on the Duncan River, taking down the ‘no fishing’ signs and opening the river to angling. The new regulations will up the bull trout daily retention quota to two per day, while making it catch-and-release for all rainbow trout caught below the confluence with the Lardeau River. 
“We’ve looked at the diet of predators, both rainbows and bull trout, over the last two-and-a-half years and we’re continuing to do that, but what it showed is that bull trout are really effective at eating kokanee - even at low densities, and rainbow’s are switching, becoming insectivores,” said FLNRO’s Kootenay biologist Matt Neufeld. 
In February, Fisheries also increased the daily quota for bull trout on Kootenay Lake from one to two (only one over 50 cm.) and rainbows from four to five. 
Gerrard rainbows are adapting and feeding more on insects and mysid shrimp, and because of that, they are not growing to the size that many anglers have grown accustomed. Bull trout, conversely, aren’t as adaptive. 
“We thought they (bull trout) would be eating white fish and a bunch of other things,” said Neufeld. “At least the samples we’ve collected from the main body of the lake show that more than 70 per cent of their diet is kokanee still. And they’re better at getting kokanee at low densities.” 
Despite a drastic decline in kokanee populations, the bull trout numbers increased by more than 100 per cent between 2015 and 2017, with approximately 3,500 bull trout spawners in 2017 alone. 
Bull trout are more effective at feeding in deep water than rainbows, and that is where the kokanee fry and one-year olds go after feeding. 
“Bull trout are better adapted to dark conditions, so they’re just hanging out in the deep feeding on kokanee, whereas rainbows aren’t as effective at doing that. So it sounds like bull trout are the big problem.” 
Studies indicate that about 95 per cent of kokanee fry don’t last a year, added Neufeld, with bull trout being the main culprit in decimating the population. 
“You just can’t recover kokanee when that is happening. So we’re doing a few things, we’re continuing to stock kokanee, but we’re also reducing predation pressure. That’s been done in a few ways, we changed regulations for rainbow trout and bull trout. We’re encouraging people to harvest fish, both rainbows and bull trout.” 
The kokanee numbers are nowhere near their historic highs, peaking at about 2 million, but the landlocked salmon is slowly rallying and coming back from a low of about 15,000 spawners on the main lake in 2017 to about 30,000 this year. 
“They (the kokanee) are super big, so if you compare them to those bigger number of spawners - they would have been much smaller and had fewer eggs.” 
The large kokanee in this year’s return will carry 600-800 eggs, while the smaller Kokanee in past larger populations had a capacity of about 200 eggs. 
“So really you can triple that number, so the 30,000 is more like 90,000 if you compare the size, but it’s still super low.” 
Fisheries also planted about 16-million kokanee eggs over the past three years in various tributaries and will add another five-million this year in an effort to bolster the population. 
The West Arm kokanee are independent of the main lake kokanee, and Neufeld was optimistic by what he saw, adding that the West Arm kokanee were actually benefitting from low densities on the main lake, due to an increase of food (ie; daphnia and zooplankton) washing into the Arm. 
“West Arm was great this year, they’re super big fish,” said Neufeld. “We’re going to be around 16,000 spawners, which is really on the high end, especially given the size that we’ve seen in the West Arm.” 
Anglers can attest to the large kokanee catch and its respectable numbers, as about 8,000 were harvested from the Upper West Arm this year over the 12 days the kokanee fishery opened, running the first three days of April, May, June and July. 
Following the kokanee collapse, the Gerrard rainbow trout numbers plummeted, leaving the fishery and area businesses reeling. 
From a high of over 1,500 in 2012, the Gerrard spawners in the Lardeau River have averaged 100-150 spawners in recent years. Still, Neufeld is encouraged by the numbers of rainbow trout he sees in Kootenay Lake. 
“We think there are many more rainbow trout in the lake … the catch rates for rainbows are high, but they’re all small.” 
The big question for fisheries biologists was whether the smaller rainbow trout were Gerrards or another species that fed mainly on insects? 
“We used genetics to evaluate,” said Neufeld, adding that the studies found,”Still about 75 per cent of that catch are Gerrard rainbows.” 
While, there is no conservation panic for the Gerrards, the days of the 15-to-25-pound lunkers likely won’t return until kokanee numbers improve. 
“The capacity of Gerrards to produce 20 pounders has not gone away, it’s just limited by kokanee supply,” added Neufeld. “They just can’t get bigger than two-and-a-half or three pounds eating bugs. The energy expenditure is just too high.” 
So fisheries managers are encouraging Kootenay Lake anglers to take advantage of the new regulations and actually hasten the return of the kokanee population by harvesting more bull trout and rainbows. 
“The good news for Gerrards at this point, is we’re still getting spawners, and we know that spawner number is producing a decent juvenile supply,” said Neufeld. “So they (Gerrards) are not gone, they’re sitting there waiting to take advantage of the situation when things improve.” 
See for changes. 

West Kootenay Fishing Report: Fall, a favourite season

The West Kootenay Fishing Report is provided by Kerry Reed from Reel Adventures Sportfishing in Nelson, ph. 250-505-4963 or go to Area Lakes provided by
Fall is in the air. The water has cooled. And it’s now time for my favourite season of fishing. 
 Kootenay Lake: The fishing has been consistent on Kootenay for the past month and should only get better as the water cools down. 
Most days we’ve had around 10 fish to the boat and a few days even busier. Rainbows have been fattening up a bit this fall and there’s been a few in the five-pound range. Lots of 2 -3 pound fish with the odd bigger one mixed in. 
And bull trout are still hanging in there as well. We are seeing a few bulls up to 10 pounds, but mostly 3 - 5 pounders. 
The Woodbury Resort annual rainbow derby, Oct. 6-8, pulled in lots of fish, with the winning rainbow weighing in at 4.4 pounds. 
Columbia River: Fly fishing for Rainbows has been productive, and spin casting for rainbows and walleye has produced as well. 
The usual 2 -3 pound rainbows are coming in, with a few up to five pounds. And the Walleye seem a bit smaller than last year, but still some great eating fish at 2-3 pounds. 
Area Lakes: After some epic fishing on smaller area lakes in September, the fishing slowed down a bit with cooler weather in October. But hatches are still strong with the recent sunshine, and made any day a pleasant one on the lakes with usually good results. Lakes like Rosebud, Champion, Nancy Greene and Cottonwood are popular and of course Summit and Box near Nakusp are favourite destinations for many anglers. 
The fishing should remain decent well into November, with trout feeding heavy to beef up for winter, however, the days will get shorter, so plan accordingly. 
What are they biting on?
On Kootenay Lake it’s been the usual assortment. Bucktail flies have been working, as well as small spoons and hockey sticks. Our best lures have been flies in the # 210, 215, and 226 colors. And crocodile spoons in the brass/fire wing, nickel/fire stripe, and brass/fire stripe colors have been working just as well and sometimes better. 
For the bull trout, we’ve been catching mostly on the flasher/hoochie combo. Green Lemon Lime flasher or STS flasher with a green spatter back hoochie has been my stand by. The bulls have been between 80 and 120 feet lately. 
And on the Columbia River, its been a mix of fly fishing or spin casting. Most of our walleye are being caught on jig heads with curly tails or using the bottom bouncer with a worm. 
The rainbows have been caught on a mix of croc spoons on the spinning rods, or streamers and nymphs on the fly rods. 
In local lakes, # 14-16 red chironomids or #10-12 bloodworm patters are still working for fly fishers, although searching at deeper depths may be required. Dragging leech patterns (ie: egg-sucking leech), and woolly buggers on full-sink lines, or casting over drop offs and into shallows with micro-leeches in maroon, brown, and black proved deadly. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Autumn trout fishing in the Kootenays

September in the Kootenays is a beautiful time of year to get back on the lakes. 
The days can be warm and pleasant, with the surrounding hillsides popping with the colours of autumn. A myriad of painted turtles sun themselves on deadfall while great blue herons wade in the shallows, and a healthy mix of chironomids and mayflies come off the surface as hungry rainbow trout emerge from the summer doldrums with a vengeance.

Chironomids are a good choice early to mid-day. Check depth and set your strike indicator so your chironomid is suspended about 12-18" from the bottom. Vary the colour and size until successful and use a stomach pump when you are to determine an approximate variation. 
I've been to this same lake many times and I've had epic days on some occasions, while on others I couldn't coax a mosquito to the boat.
In the autumn months, the fishing is usually very good although keep an eye on those indicators as the trout are prone to sip and spit almost in one motion. 
As the chironomid hatch subsides in the afternoon, tie on a sink tip or sink line and troll leeches or dragonfly nymphs over the dropoffs. This proved ve
ry successful and while we missed a few, we also caught a couple of the biggest fish of the day. My fishing partner Colin landed a healthy 16-inch rainbow on a beadhead pumpkin leech that ran like a freight train, then turned and sped toward the boat, as Colin stripped like a madman.
Chironomid patterns in size 14-16, black body-red rib or silver/red seemed to offer us the best luck while leech patterns and dragonfly nymphs size 6-10 in greens, browns, and orange were the most effective.
These patterns and techniques work on most smaller West Kootenay lakes and there are many including Nancy Green, Champion Lakes, Cottonwood, Loon, Rosebud, Wolf, Panther, Curtis, Wilgress, and Jewel Lakes. 
Sheila and her dog Bentley enjoy sailing her Hobie Cat 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

BC, Washington State ramp up efforts to eradicate Northern Pike on Columbia River

Image result for pike suppression continues on columbia

Fisheries managers on both sides of the border are renewing efforts to control the northern pike population in the Columbia River and keep the invasive species corralled above the Grand Coulee Dam.

Columbia Basin Trust, BC Hydro, and the province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) joined forces to fund this year’s program and secured the services of Wood Environmental and Mountain Water Research (MWR) to continue with a pike suppression program for the Columbia River, from the Hugh Keenlyside Dam to the US border, and the Canadian section of the Pend d’Oreille Reservoir.
“It is the first time that we’ve been in the Pend d’Oreille and that anyone has sampled other than Dan (Dan Doutaz, a Thompson Rivers University master’s student),” said MWR biologist Jeremy Baxter. “We just wanted to get a general idea of what the abundance was like and where they might be spawning and to try to suppress them prior to spawning as well.”             
                    See more on pike suppression on the Columbia River

The largest from the the Pend d’Oreille measured about 80-cm (31.5 inches) and from the Columbia 90 cm (36-inches), but for Baxter the timing was perfect.
Gill netting efforts began the first week of May, with two days of sampling in the Seven Mile Reservoir and three days in Waneta. Over the five days, the MWR crew netted a dozen northern pike in the two sections.
“It was a little bit less than I expected, but to tell you the truth, the water was extremely high and it was very turbid, and so there wasn’t a lot of littoral zones,” said Baxter. “But we caught them in all the same spots that Dan had sampled.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Northern Pike problem persists in Columbia River

The following is an article I wrote on the invasive northern pike in the Columbia River, published in American Angler Magazine in Dec. 2016.

 Water Wolves invade the Columbia River

Northern pike is a favoured sportfish by many anglers, but Esox Lucius is also an apex predator, and when illegally introduced into non-native waters, the alien species can wreak havoc on native populations of trout, salmon, and practically everything else that swims.
The toothy, prehistoric-looking predator appeared in the Columbia River system in southern British Columbia and the Lake Roosevelt Reservoir in Washington State above the Grand Coulee Dam in 2009. Fisheries managers believe pike were illegally introduced into the Flathead Lake system as early as the 1980s, traveled through Clark Fork into Lake Pend Oreille, the Pend Oreille River, and eventually the Columbia River.
 The uninvited guest breached at least 10 dams, infiltrating about 500 miles of new habitat, and is now poised to invade the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph systems and likely beyond - into prime Columbia River salmon tributaries like the Snake, Salmon, Methow, Yakima, Wenatchee, Deschutes, Willamette, and Okanagan River systems.

Columbia’s last blue-ribbon trout water: 
The 30 mile section of the Columbia River between Castlegar, BC and the US border is one of the last free-flowing tail-water fisheries remaining on the 1,200-mile long river, and an exceptional native redband rainbow trout fishery. Jeremy Baxter of Mountain Water Research has led the rainbow trout recruitment program for BC Hydro for the past 20 years, and has seen the fishery make a remarkable transformation. But with pike now in the system, the redband rainbows, a descendant of the steelhead trout, are potentially at risk along with other native species like mountain whitefish and kokanee salmon.
“Everybody’s onboard in trying to control them (northern pike) . . . but it’s going to be virtually impossible to eradicate them,” said Baxter, who also leads the pike suppression program for British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources (FLNRO). “The goal is to preserve the native rainbow trout that exist in the Columbia, I mean that’s essential.”
Close to a $1-billion remediation and reclamation effort by Teck Resources (Cominco) in Trail and a Castlegar pulp mill, Zeltsoff Celgar, in the 90s drastically reduced toxic emissions and discharge of dissolved metals. Teck ceased the dumping of treated slag into the Columbia, a dense black smelting waste that carpeted the benthic habitat, adversely affecting aquatic plant growth, disrupting insect hatches, and, not surprisingly, found to be poisonous to rainbow trout and other species, putting the Columbia routinely on BC’s Most Endangered Rivers list.
For years the Brilliant, Keenleyside, and Waneta Dams withheld water during the spring rainbow spawning runs, stranding millions of redds. Yet with reclamation of fish habitat and BC Hydro altering its flow regime, caddis hatches became epic and recruitment went from 2,000 trout in 1999 to over 15,000 in 10 years.
“It’s such a large river, that there’s so much suitable habitat, that it was a no brainer that rainbow trout would do that,” said Baxter. “Once we figured out where they spawn and how to protect those areas with various flow regimes it seems to have worked. Now the fishery is one of the best, it’s just amazing.”

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring fly fishing on Mable Lake

Well after a year or so break, I decided to get back to the fly-fish-bc blog.
Not that I haven't been fishing, I fished with as much conviction as any other year that included a couple great days on Bleeker Lake and Pass Lake, a trip to the Elk River and Wigwam, a couple streams in Wash. State, a day on the water in Cabo San Lucas not to mention some epic days and nights throwing string on the Columbia River and local lakes.