Dozens of visitors descended upon Hardy Falls Regional Park on Saturday, where the Regional District of Central Okanagan held an educational event about kokanee salmon and their unique life cycle.
“Throughout the month of September, you have a really great chance to come here if not today, to take in these wonderful fish on their life cycle, ready to spawn and kind of begin their whole cycle again,” said Rose Maunder, RDCO event planner.
Park interpreters with the RDCO gave tours along Deep Creek Trail, where dozens of people learned how unique kokanee salmon are. The freshwater fish have a fascinating way of knowing and remembering exactly where they were born. The female kokanee currently spawning at Hardy Falls were born there 4 years ago, and somehow when it’s their time to lay eggs they find their way back.
“They’re swimming around the lake, they’re tasting the waters of other creeks, and they’re going to keep moving along until they taste the water that they recognize,” described RDCO park interpreter, Risti Lesperance.
“They’re going to recognize how it tastes, how it smells and they’re going to know that Deep Creek is where they have to leave and go and spawn.”
The kokanee will wait at the mouth of the creek or stream where they were born and know just by the temperature of the water when it’s time to leave the lake and head upstream, so warmer weather can have an impact on future spawning seasons.
“Spawning might be delayed by a number of days, by a week, by two weeks, until the fish can sense that the water has cooled down enough for them to spawn, but eventually even if the fish have sensed that the water is still too warm, they can only wait so long,” explained Lesperance.
Lesperance wants to remind everyone that even though you can’t always see the salmon, they’re actually in creeks for about 10 months of the year.
“It’s so important to remember to stay out the creeks to stay out of the rivers because you go in there and you’re crushing salmon eggs that are in the rocks, you’re trampling on alevins or salmon fry, so from the end of August to May, our creeks and streams are home to salmon,” Lesperance said.
The RDCO will be hosting kokanee salmon spawning tours on weekends from Sept. 10 to Oct. 9 at Mission Creek Regional Park, and on weekends from Aug. 27 to Oct. 9 at Hardy Falls Regional Park.