Fishing for any species is now prohibited in Salmon Arm Bay, at the confluence of the Salmon River and Shuswap Lake, due to conservation concerns and low flows.
Federal Fisheries officers have been working with volunteers from the Shuswap Fish and Game Club to create a deep enough channel for chinook to make their way into the Salmon River.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations senior fisheries biologist Steve Maricle says fisheries officials questioned anglers, who were fishing in a deep pool off the mouth of the river where the salmon congregate before heading upriver.
The anglers said they were fishing for rainbow trout, but Maricle says the gear to fish for chinook is the same, so to give the salmon the best possible chance to get to their spawning grounds, FLNRO felt comfortable in closing all fishing in the bay.
“We do not encourage fishing on a congregation, especially on a run that could be endangered,” he said. “We want to protect those fish.”
The closure will go right to Dec. 31 in order to protect the coho stocks that will return to the Salmon River this fall.
Maricle says discussions will take place this winter on the possibility of making it a permanent closure every year from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31.
“This has been an issue for a number of years and rather than doing a variance order every year, it might just be worth have a closure at this time of the year when the salmon are returning to spawn.”
Meanwhile, disappointment is being replaced by cautious optimism that the chinook run will match the brood year escapement of four years ago.
“It’s a stock of concern that’s nowhere near what the system capacity should be or could be,” says Stu Cartwright, acting area director of the federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the B.C. Interior. “It hasn’t been producing to historical numbers that we’ve seen over time.”
But the chinooks are congregating at the fish fence at Gene Puetz’s Silver Creek property and fisheries officers are getting close to making the target of 25 pairs.
“We’re optimistic we’ll get them for the Spius Creek hatchery to augment the natural chinook spawning,” Cartwright says. “We know the hatchery environment has a higher success rate and will help bring the numbers back up.”
Cartwright is hoping more chinook will make it upriver on their own, after fisheries captures he 25 pairs.
The picture is gloomy in the North Shuswap, where sockeye returns are in the neighbourhood of only 20 per cent of their brood year.
On Scotch Creek only about 6,100 late summer sockeye have arrived at the fence from a brood year high of 34,000 in 2011.
“They continue to come in but it’s tapering off,” Cartwright said of the annual run. “Again, it’s preliminary, but it’s disappointing to see the low returns.”
The late sockeye assessment team is just setting up on the Adams River now, but hopes for a large sub-dominant run are not high.
“The forecast was for 1.236 million sockeye but now it’s looking like 200,000,” says Cartwright, adding the Pacific Salmon Commission is no longer conducting test fisheries off the coast. “We would normally see more than what we’re seeing. Maybe there’s some in the approach waters in Juan de Fuca and Johnstone Strait but they’re tailing off quickly.”
Meanwhile, all recreational fishery on Shuswap River has closed, there is no salmon fishing in Shuswap Lake and no fishing at all in Salmon Arm Bay.
Anglers can fish for chinook in Little Shuswap Lake – four fish per day, but only two can be over 50 centimetres.
While water level remain low, but water temperatures have cooled off.