July 08, 2016 - 2:30 PM
NORTH OKANAGAN - Only 286 chinook salmon were counted spawning on the mid-Shuswap River in 2012, a low return that has fisheries officers curtailing fishing opportunities this summer.
A good run on the Shuswap River is considered to be around 1,500, fishery officer Brian Levitt says. Because the salmon are on a four year cycle, the return in 2012 directly impacts how many are likely to return in 2016.
“The system seems to have been struggling over the last number of years,” Levitt says. “I can’t give you a reason as to why it’s not improving.”
While other systems like the Thompson River are doing well, the Shuswap has seen lower than expected returns, and that has the Department of Fisheries and Oceans concerned.
The Shuswap River is already enhanced by a hatchery, Levitt says, but fishery officers felt more needed to be done this year to conserve salmon stocks. That’s why a portion of the river has been completely closed to fishing, and regulations tightened up in other areas.
“This area is popular especially during the early part of the opening. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that there are opportunities to fish for chinook for future generations, so from time to time, these conservation measures are necessary,” Levitt says.
Previously, salmon fishing was permitted between July 25 and Aug. 15 on the river and Mabel Lake from Wilsey dam (Shuswap Falls) to boundary signs near Mara. This year, there is a complete salmon fishing closure between Shuswap Falls and Mabel Lake for the duration of the summer.
Another change is a three week delay in the opening of the lower Shuswap River and Mabel Lake. When salmon fishing opens on Aug. 16, there will be an additional closure at the south end of Mabel Lake.
“This measure is meant to protect any chinook salmon that may be holding in the lake before entering into the mid Shuswap river,” Levitt says.
You can view full information regarding this year’s fishing regulations, including daily quotas and size limits, on the Shuswap River and Mabel Lake here.
If conditions are favourable, fishery biologists are predicting a return of between 300 to 400 salmon this year.
It’s unknown if the regulations will open back up in 2017. Because the chinook are on a four-year cycle, spawning numbers from 2013 will have to be looked at first, Levitt says.
Fisheries and Oceans also imposed a fishing ban at Trinity Bridge near Enderby after people were caught exceeding quotas, attempting to foul hook fish, and throwing rocks at salmon to direct them over lures.
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