Sanca Creek angler Guy Rook is the most recent winner of the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program draw.
Rook received $1,000 in gift certificates for winning the monthly draw for February after submitting six heads to the Wynndel Foods and Outdoor Depot.
“We had a really fun late spring fishing with lots of action and then recently a couple of weeks ago the fishing was very active,” said Rook, who has been fishing on the lake since 2017 and says he gets out about 20 times a year.
“I haven’t noticed a change in fish size over the past couple of years, and we have definitely caught more fish, but maybe it’s because I learn something each time I’m out.”
The program is designed to help recover the kokanee population in Kootenay Lake. Following a 2013 collapse, anglers saw kokanee numbers reduced to an estimated 12,000 spawners in the main lake in 2017.
Conservationists have been trying to reverse the decline by conducting kokanee egg plants and fry release for the past five years. The high in-lake abundance of rainbow and bull trout is suppressing the survival of the kokanee, the primary food source of these predators.
The incentive program encourages anglers to catch and retain rainbow and bull trout, while giving the juvenile kokanee a chance to grow.
“The sports fishery on Kootenay Lake was once renowned for its stock of large Gerrard rainbow trout and kokanee salmon,” said West Arm Outdoors Club President Gord Grunerud in a release. “We want to get back to a robust sports fishery in our region.
“Our goal with this three-year incentive program is to restore a balance in predator/prey relationships to allow kokanee abundance to increase.”
Historically, the number of main lake kokanee spawners typically ranged between 250,000 and 2 million. Numbers have increased but are still low as fishery managers counted about 90,000 kokanee spawners in 2020.
“Once kokanee survival improves as a result of fewer predators, kokanee abundance will increase quite rapidly. We need to continue harvesting predators until we hit that tipping point,” read a Kootenay Lake Kokanee Recovery Update from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
In June, one lucky winner will be drawn from the rainbow and bull trout submissions to win a $50,000 Kingfisher boat and trailer package.
Draws for the $1,000 gift certificates will continue through March, April, and May.