September 12, 2015 - 10:30 AM
KELOWNA – While many rivers and streams around B.C. are seeing below-average numbers of salmon spawning as a result of warmer temperatures and lower water levels, Mission Creek Regional Park staff say their salmon numbers are higher than they’ve been in two years.
Park interpreter Nicole Kittmer says they currently have around 6,000 salmon in the spawning channel.
“We heard the same news from provincial sources and we were a little worried,” she says. “It’s better now than the last couple years though. It is very good news.”
Every year at about this time, thousands of kokanee salmon leave Okanagan Lake and head upstream to spawn. There are two places in and around Kelowna to watch the annual run – Mission Creek Regional Park off Springfield Road and Hardy Falls Regional Park in Peachland.
The salmon started running up the creek at Hardy Falls on Aug. 23, but it wasn’t until recently the numbers were high enough that biologists have stopped worrying what effect the long, hot and dry summer had.
“By the end of August we had lots of fish,” she says. “It looked really good actually. The fish looked really healthy and the males were active and large. And there were plenty of females as well. Now we’ve started getting fish in Mission Creek as well.”
The kokanee salmon can be found in the small creek on the south side of the Mission Creek bridge.
Kittmer says there is a third way to watch salmon spawn as well but it's not as well known.
“We also have kokanee that will spawn along the shorelines. There is usually some great viewing at Bertram Creek Regional Park,” she says. “That should be starting soon.”
The lakeshore-spawning kokanee don’t peak until mid-October while spawning in the creeks is usually over by the end of September.
Kittmer can’t exactly say why the numbers around Kelowna are higher than most other sites around B.C. but says water levels and temperatures are just two pieces in a complex relationship.
“Low water definitely has an impact. If there’s not enough water in the creek they just simply can’t get up, but that is just one aspect of why their numbers go up and down each year,” she says. “There’s also some debate about how temperature plays into when they enter the creek. They will go up the creek if there’s water regardless of temperatures. It’s a matter of when that’s going to happen.”
The Regional District of the Central Okanagan is holding a free Kokanee Salmon Festival at Mission Creek Park Sep. 20 and a Kokanee Fun Run Oct. 17.
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