Osoyoos Lake will open for recreational and commercial salmon fishing on July 31, according to a bulletin published this week by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Recreational anglers will be limited to two sockeye per day from the norther basin of the lake, which is delineated by the Highway 3 bridge, and must catch them during daylight hours using a single barbless hook. The commercial fishery is open only to the Okanagan Nation Alliance, which represents seven First Nations in the region.
The decision was made in conjunction with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, which has led efforts to restore the salmon population, and a sports fishing advisory group.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada only considers recreational openings on Osoyoos Lake – the last was in 2018 – when a minimum of 80,000 salmon are counted passing the Wells Dam on the Columbia River about 100 kilometres south in Washington State.
As of Tuesday, 190,000 sockeye had been counted passing the dam. (The count is done by members of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers by watching video recordings from cameras trained on the fish ladders at the dam.)
Wells Dam is the last of nine such hurdles Okanagan salmon must pass on the Columbia River on their 1,000-kilometre journey home from the Pacific Ocean.
Okanagan Nation Alliance fisheries manager Howie Wright said as many as 220,000 sockeye are forecast to pass Wells Dam this year, and between 60,000 and 100,000 are expected to make it to Osoyoos Lake. It’s anyone’s guess how much further north they’ll go.
“It’s dependent on temperature. So as long as it’s 22 C in the river, they’ll keep migrating,” explained Wright.
This year’s return is so far about one-third higher than expected, although in line with the 10-year average, and a vast improvement on the 2019 season, which saw just 50,000 sockeye pass Wells Dam.
Sockeye started showing up last week in the Okanagan River below the dam at Okanagan Falls, where Indigenous people are permitted to fish for sustenance.
Okanagan Nation Alliance