Regulation changes coming to Whiteswan Lake fishery

F.J. Hurtak talks to Fisheries Biologist Heather Lamson concerning upcoming changes at one of the East Kootenay's most popular fisheries.

  • Feb. 25, 2015 12:00 p.m.
Heather Lamson

Heather Lamson

F.J. Hurtak

One of the most popular fisheries in the East Kootenay is likely to undergo some pretty significant changes this year.

Whiteswan Lake, nestled in the Kootenay Rocky Mountain range about 25 kilometres east of Canal Flats, has been a priority for fisheries management people over the past few years.

Proposed changes concerning this lake and nearby Moose Lake (Alces) were based on recommendations from stakeholders who participated in the recently developed Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park Management Plan. There were many options for management considered in this plan, including leaving the lake “status quo” — or no changes. This option was ruled out for several reasons apparently, but the main one being that stakeholders participating in the plan had indeed recommended some changes after much consultation.

Therefore, doing nothing would create negative engagement results for participants, and there would be unnecessary opportunity restrictions on anglers as well.

What Changes can Anglers Expect?

In reference to this, I recently interviewed Heather Lamson, a Fisheries Biologist with the B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations. Heather came to the East Kootenay three years ago to join the Cranbrook based staff, after spending time in California, Terrace, Squamish, and Campbell River in the same line of work. The following is the dialogue from that interview.

Question: Can you tell our readers what management options will likely occur on Whiteswan Lake in 2015/16?

Answer: Proposed regulation changes, effective April 1st, 2015 include the following: Opening Whiteswan on December 27,changed from January 3rd. Changing Moose Lake regulation from “No ice fishing; trout/char daily quota = 2; bait ban, single barbless hook; electric motors only to “trout/char daily quota 2”.

Opening Outlet Creek below the falls to harvest on rainbow trout (limit five) April 1 to July 31.

Question: Before we talk about the actual regulation changes there is one thing I would like to get you to comment on. The fish barrier at Outlet Creek seemed to be one of the most popular management options from stakeholders. (A) Why is the construction of a fish barrier necessary? (B) How much will the barrier cost? I am assuming the Habitat Conservation Fund would be a natural source of funding for a project such as this because monies for the fund come from surcharges on angling and hunting licenses?

Answer: Outlet Creek flows from Whiteswan Lake to the White River. A waterfall exists on Outlet Creek which is a barrier to upstream migration into the lake but which rainbow trout can successfully move downstream over. Rainbow trout are not native to the East Kootenay region and have been stocked in Whiteswan Lake and many other lakes in the region over the past 50 years.

Our two native trout species in the East Kootenay, bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout, are both listed as species at risk.  Rainbow trout escape from Whiteswan Lake through Outlet Creek and are known to hybridize with westslope cutthroat trout.

Hybridization with rainbow trout is the leading cause for the decline of the westslope cutthroat trout species, which exist as pure cutthroat in only eight to 20 per cent of their native range. A barrier on Outlet Creek will allow for rainbow trout spawning and fry to return to the lake to sustain the population there but will stop outmigration to the White River.

By stopping the source of rainbow trout to downstream waters, the goal is to reverse hybridization while maintaining a strong rainbow trout fishery at Whiteswan Lake.

The estimated cost for barrier construction ranges from $120,000 to $170,000.  The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has been very supportive of fisheries work at Whiteswan Lake and has funded a number of projects over the past couple of years, as has our Fish and Wildlife branch. We will be seeking funding from FFSBC and FLNRO, and are hoping the project will be funded in either 2015 or 2016.

 

Pictured: The bull trout, along with the westslope cutthroat trout, is native to the East Kootenay. Both are considered species at risk.  Hybrization with rainbow trout is one of the reasons for the decline of westslope cutthroat trout numbers. Joseph R. Tomelleri illustration

Question: Now to the regulation changes themselves. The opening of Outlet Creek for fishing below the falls from April 1-July 31 is an interesting option. It does puzzle me a bit because of course this is for the most part, spawning season for naturalized Rainbow trout from Whiteswan Lake. I simply do not know of too many fisherman who will want to fish for trout which are in the spawning process and are very likely inedible. Would you explain the rationale behind this?

Answer: The idea is to enable fishermen with a tool to help fisheries managers remove rainbow trout from Outlet Creek below the falls.  Results from genetic analysis have shown that below the falls, rainbow trout have displaced westslope cutthroat trout in Outlet Creek.  Paired with creating a barrier to stop outmigration, Fisheries aims to remove colonized rainbow trout from Outlet Creek and perhaps anglers can help us do that.  Studies in other areas have shown that there is a strong tendency for displaced westslope cutthroat trout to recolonize if the rainbow source is reduced or stopped.

Question: What is the reasoning behind opening the ice fishery on this lake on December 27, instead of January 3 as it has been for so many years?

Answer: The annual ice fishery at Whiteswan Lake will open seven days earlier to create opportunity for school aged children to fish during holidays. Stakeholders prioritized fishing opportunities for children and opening Whiteswan during school holidays is a step towards that.

Question: Whiteswan Lake has not really been significantly stocked since 2004. Both your lake net survey data and annual spawner data suggests the trout population is stable in this lake, but increased angler days may increase harvest. Keeping this in mind, Is there a possibility that the trout population could be augmented with stocked sterile triploid trout in the future?

Answer: Stocking with sterile rainbow trout is an option for the future. Our extensive fish and angler datasets at Whiteswan Lake indicate that the population is self-sustaining and stable, and that harvest rates have steadily decreased over the past 20-50 years. We will keep a close eye on the fishery following regulation changes to determine harvest and if the lake warrants additional stocking.  Too many fish in a lake can reduce food supply and affect fish size, so we need to balance population size with harvest.

Question: Other than the increased limit on Outlet Creek below the falls, will the trout daily quota remain at two in the main body of the lake with a continued single hook restriction?

Answer: Yes

Question: I understand that nearby Moose Lake, which has been managed as somewhat of a trophy fishery in the past, will be open for ice fishing for the first time later on this year and some of the other restrictions will be lifted as well. Can you elaborate on this?

Answer: Stakeholder direction from the Whiteswan Fisheries Management Planning process included managing Moose Lake as a family fishery.  Moose Lake is less windy than Whiteswan and smaller, conducive to fishing for kids.  Since 2013, Moose Lake has been stocked with greater numbers to reflect this change.  A change in regulations to open the ice fishery and liberalize restrictions will potentially offset pressure at Whiteswan as well.  As a stocked lake, harvest can be offset with stocking.

Thanks Heather. We appreciate you making all of us aware of these changes which are likely going to be implemented starting April 1 when the new regulations for 2015/16 go into effect.

F.J. Hurtak is an ardent fisherman, and the author of the books “Elk Hunting in the Kootenays”, and “Hunting the Antlered Big game of the Kootenays”, available at selected retailers in B.C. and Alberta. All profits go to acquire land for wildlife and enhancing habitat in the Kootenay region.

Just Posted

The City of Cranbrook and the Ktunaxa Nation raised the flag of the Ktunaxa Nation at the arches entrance into the city’s downtown core during a ceremony on Monday, June 21. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Ktunaxa Nation flag raised at downtown arches entrance

The Ktunaxa Nation flag was raised at the Cranbrook arches — the… Continue reading

Kimberley Search and Rescue were able to quickly respond to a call for service and transport an injured mountain biker to East Kootenay Regional Hospital over the weekend. Kimberley SAR file photo.
Kimberley Search and Rescue respond to injured mountain biker on Bootleg Mountain

Kimberley Search and Rescue responded to a call for service this past… Continue reading

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

City of Cranbrook, Ktunaxa Nation to host flag ceremony on National Indigenous Peoples Day. (Corey Bullock file)
City of Cranbrook, Ktunaxa Nation hosting flag ceremony on National Indigenous Peoples Day

A temporary road closure and speed limit reduction will be in effect during the ceremony

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read