Originally Published by InfoNews.ca, November 26, 2015
By Glynn Brothen
KAMLOOPS – Steelhead fish counts are the lowest on record in the Thompson River and that could impact sport angling next year.
The productivity of the fish has been declining for the last 25 years, B.C. Ministry of Lands, Parks and Natural Resources biologist Robert Bison says, adding while scientists knew the numbers were low as of last count, there was hope the numbers wouldn’t continue to drop.
“In 2010 and 2011 we had the record low at that time and now these (current) steelhead are five years old. So, the offspring are giving rise to a new record low in the next spring, 2016,” he says. “It’s a combination of a real low parental stock size combined with below average productivity, giving rise to this new record low.”
While the number used to be in the thousands, Bison says there are between 400 and 500 migrating parent fish left, which is an extreme conservation concern. He says a poor showing of pink and coho salmon in the Adams River also suggest a low steelhead count for next year.
Because of the decline in steelhead, Bison says numbers for other fish, particularly certain species of salmon, are up. Bison says scientists hypothesize the overabundance of one type of fish has changed steelhead productivity.
Steelhead are anadromous, meaning the fish can migrate between fresh water and the sea. While juvenile fish distribute mainly in Kamloops Lake, Bison says most adult steelhead concentrate around Spences Bridge traveling either to the north via the Thompson River or to sea through the Fraser River.
Bison says steelhead numbers could also affect the tourism to the area, specifically through the sport fishing industry. The Thompson River fishery is already managed conservatively, Bison says, but if a small run comes through next year, the area will be closed.
“Their numbers are low but their socioeconomic value is high,” Bison says.
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