Revitalizing Red Lake
North of Savona above Kamloops Lake, Red Lake is long, about 270 acres in size and orientated roughly northwest.
It has a few islands and a narrows in the center.
There are three public access points located on the southern shore.
Red Lake is one of the lakes that has made the Kamloops region world famous for small-lakes fishing. It is stocked with rainbow and eastern brook trout, which are genetically triploid.
That genetic alteration results in fish never going through a spawning cycle, allowing them to grow to an exceptional size.
Unfortunately, the lake suffers from winter oxygen depletion, which kills many fish.
Another problem was the difficulty anglers had in accessing the lake due to the steepness of the shoreline or exclusion through private property.
In spite of this, Red Lake supports about 3,000 angler days annually.
Works undertaken through the co-operation and support of a number of agencies has helped with those problems and, combined with an oxygen-injection project, may just transform the lake into a very productive one.
The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, created with surcharges on hunting, fishing and trapping licences, was a major funder of the oxygen-injection project.
Other significant contributors to works at Red Lake included the Highland Valley Enhancement Fund, Terasen Gas (Fortis BC), the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the BC Wildlife Federation.
The Kamloops and District Fish and Game Association provided co-ordination, funding and considerable groundwork.
In addition to funding efforts, a large amount of time was used in obtaining permits and in creating co-operative efforts with a multitude of agencies.
Those included several ministry branches of forests, lands and natural resource operations, BC Hydro, land owners, a surveyor, a faller, a heavy-equipment operator and an archeologist.
As work was to begin, one of the access areas became a designated archeological site.
More permitting with attached work conditions was required and was obtained with the assistance and support of the Skeetchestn Indian Band.
Access improvements are the work of Bob Goldie and his crew of Kamloops and District Fish and Game Association members.
The project was expected to be completed in a year, but turned out to be much more complicated and took three years.
The northernmost access is a winter site used to reach the lake only when shore mud and vegetation are frozen.
It is found at kilometer 39 on the Tranquille-Criss Creek (Red Lake) Road as measured from its start at Tranquille Farms in Kamloops. That site has had the parking area increased, levelled and gravelled with a pit toilet installed.
The middle site has had the slope reduced, the road realigned, widened and gravelled and a toilet installed.
To find this boat-launch location, continue southwest from the first site about a kilometer onto Red Lake Drive and then to Strom Place Road.
The southernmost launch site was not improved as it is too cramped between the lake, the road and rock cliffs.
Complementing access improvements is a hypolimnetic oxygen-injection system installed in Red Lake by Steve Maricle and Andrew Klassen, the Kamloops region’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations fisheries biologists.
Hypolimnetic injection is a new procedure using pure oxygen extracted from air and piped directly into the lake. A previous solution to low oxygen levels were aerolater systems, which sprayed water above the lake surface to mix with air.
However, this method, still used on seven other lakes in the region, creates large openings in the ice requiring temporary signage and fencing each winter. The oxygen-injection method is designed to eliminate the danger of thin ice or open water and the need for many hours of fencing work.
At the heart of the lakeside oxygen-generation process is zeolite, a microporous aluminosilicate mineral. It is a naturally occurring substance with wide and fascinating uses in industry.
The generation system uses compressed air forced into zeolite, which separates oxygen from nitrogen due to molecule size difference.
Oxygen is retained, then pumped as very fine bubbles through a diffuser below the lake surface.
The diffuser was installed with the use of a helicopter carrying the huge device out to where divers anchored it to the bottom with large weights and cables.
Just the top portion of the diffuser shows at the lake surface, while the four chambered outlet pipes below ensure a wide distribution of oxygenated water when needed.
With oxygen injection, regular winter survival of Red Lake fish is expected to increase fishing activity to 10,000 angler days, generating about $1 million worth of revenue for the local economy.
It is likely Red Lake will now be mentioned often in angling circles and should create some pleasant memories from around the family dining table.
Geoff Swannell is with the Kamloops and District Fish and Game Association