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Cool start to summer boosts Okanagan River sockeye salmon run

FILE PHOTO - First Nations members fishing for sockeye at the Okanagan Falls dam on July 15, 2016. Numbers of returning sockeye are much higher than originally predicted, thanks to a cooler, wetter July.
July 25, 2016 - 8:00 PM

PENTICTON - A cooler, damper start to summer is good news for the Okanagan River sockeye salmon fishery in the South Okanagan this year.

Okanagan Nation Alliance Fisheries program manager Howie Wright says migration conditions for returning salmon entering the Okanagan River from the Columbia River system turned out to be more favourable to migration this year with water temperatures less than 22 Celsius.

“More sockeye came into the river, which created an opportunity for food fishing," Wright says. "Last week, after discussions with federal fisheries, a recreational and economic fishing opening was announced.” 

It was anticipated there would be about 60,000 fish in the Columbia River system this year, but Wright says there are more than 360,000.

“Seventy per cent of those are Okanagan River salmon,” Wright says, adding a cooler and wetter July improved migration.

Wright says the recent controversy surrounding an Okanagan Falls residents’ claims natives are trespassing to access traditional fishing grounds at Okanagan Falls dam is less a First Nations issue than it is one of use of Crown land. He says a provincial survey in 2013 clarified property boundaries, but added First Nations members are asked to access the dam by walking up the stream bed or accessing from Crown land.

Wright says the Okanagan Falls fishery was, in historical times, the second largest native fishery on the Columbia system, after the one at Kettle Falls.

“There was an Osoyoos Indian Band reserve on the site that was expropriated in the 1910s, known as Indian Reserve Number Two. The site is also culturally important,” Wright says.

Drought conditions and low salmon returns last year prevented the native food fishery at Kettle Falls from taking place. The sport fishery for Osoyoos Lake sockeye begins July 29 and is expected to run 12 days this year.

Wright says the Okanagan Nations and fisheries department will look at catch numbers and other data on day 10 to decide whether or not to extend the fishery this year.

The sport fishery on Osoyoos Lake is open to anglers with a valid B.C. fishing license and salmon tag.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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