Effective May 1, the kokanee sport fishery on the upper west arm of Kootenay Lake will be catch and release only for the rest of the fishing season.
Sport fishing will remain open, but anglers will have to release any kokanee they catch, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said in a news release.
This spring, anglers landed fewer kokanee than usual in this part of the lake, which could be an indication that the overall numbers are down. The closure is a precaution aimed to support long-term kokanee conservation efforts, the government said.
Meanwhile, the province is concerned with kokanee numbers throughout Kootenay Lake. Last fall, biologists counted 18,000 spawning kokanee in the main body of the lake and its tributaries, the lowest number since the annual count started in 1979.
Scientists estimate that the fish laid 4.26 million eggs, down from a high of 265 million eggs in 1981. The kokanee fishery in the main lake remains closed.
The province has put together a team of experts to fast-track the creation of a five-year action plan to guide the recovery of Kootenay Lake kokanee stocks. The plan is being finalized and will be released shortly, the news release said.
BC. worked with First Nations, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the BC Wildlife Federation to put together the advisory team and develop the plan.
Kokanee are landlocked sockeye salmon and are second only to rainbow trout as the most popular game fish in BC.