Hank Shelley

Column: Steelhead recovery, oh so slow

By Hank Shelley, Observer contributor

For those folk who really love the outdoor experience, are attuned to, or belong to a nature society, it can be frustrating knowing it takes time to mitigate, or repair events like development in a park for a road, or accessing a hiking trail now land designated for development, etc.

But time stops for no man,

and looking at the bigger picture, three happenings that affect fish and wildlife come to mind.

Big-horned sheep, have always been native to the Mt. Paul area off the Yellowhead highway at Kamloops.

Major development on the Kamloops Indian band lands has dramatically pushed the sheep grazing and habitat, so the animals took to crossing the busy highway to a golf driving range for the green grass, with several animals struck, and killed including large rams.

Public outcry demanded action and a fence be erected to stop the carnage. After fish, wildlife and lands branch kept passing on who was going to pay, a prominent construction company boss from Merritt was willing to put up $50,000 and his crew to do the job. Finally a fence was built.

Although Cathy McGregor was environment minister a few years back, for just a short time, I attended a special meeting in Kamloops, regarding the spiny-ray perch invasion, by the so-called “bucket brigade, who had put perch in nine Interior lakes.

Biologists attended, along with seasoned Kamloops Fish and Game members, some who were retired biologists. It was a heated go-round, as a senior biologist, said their piscavore permits had expired for the use of rotenone two seasons previous. Rotenone is derived from a tree in South America used by natives to stun fish in streams, effecting the gill structure. It is used widely to treat lakes with invasive species, in the U.S. MOE staff would have to take a course to handle the stuff.

Meanwhile, for two high water springs, creeks like Sinmax which flows from Forrest Lake (perch infested) close to Barriere, into Adams Lake at Squam Bay could carry perch, which it did. Fry traps, set in the lake caught perch. Skamama Lake held perch, with Hiuihill (Bear Creek) flowing into the Adams River. The Adams flows into Shuswap Lake. A year later, children at Sorrento were possibly catching perch off a dock. Perch are prolific, laying thousands of eggs, and also predatory, using warm-water bays for food.

It is also rearing and feeding habitat for salmon fry and fingerlings.

Perch also spawn in bays. While boating, If persons see a milky or cloudy location, call it into MOE Kamloops.

My suspicion with anglers on the big lake using yellow-orange buck tails successfully, may indicate large trout, are eating or chasing, perch fry. This signals a dramatic change for salmon and trout numbers into future fishing opportunity. Salmon fry are consumed by mergansers, birds, mink, otters, predatory trout, lake trout and course fish.

Thompson-Chilco steelhead; This is a tough one, as little progress has been made, in regard to enhancing stocks. Only 145 fish returned on the Thompson-Chilco 45. Steelhead run with the chum salmon on the lower Fraser River, and are taken by Native gill net as a by catch. Mid canyon, they are taken in the gill net fishery.

Big argument is, will a hatchery help increase numbers? Meetings with all parties including government biologist suggests a hatchery will take away the wild stock, once unique. Some blame warming ocean conditions on poor survival. Others blame seals and sea lions.

My solution is putting pressure on MOE as historically it was a historic Native food fishery, and First Nations, taking the Province to court over infringement of fishing rights! Slowly, we are losing our heritage, wildlife, fish, for development, and personal gain in a province so beautiful. Hopefully smarter minds will prevail down the road!

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