Seeking to save the steelhead

alkem said his grandfather’s generation would spear fish at night in winter as a food fishery, when returns were in the tens of thousands

The steelhead is a sea-run form of the rainbow trout that usually returns to fresh water to spawn after living two to three years in the ocean.

Cam Fortems – Kamloops This Week

The number of steelhead returning to the Thompson River system this year reached a new low of just 380 fish, as a working group attempts to come up with a recovery plan.

David Walkem, chief of Cook’s Ferry Indian Band, said the effort to recover the fish has been frustratingly slow and he cannot point to a concrete effort that will be in place a year from now.

“Getting a co-ordinated, focused approach is not going to happen in a year,” he said. “In two years, we may not be having anything to worry about.”

The band is located at Spences Bridge, at one time a mecca in fall for anglers from around the world who came for the trophy fish. Walkem said his grandfather’s generation would spear fish at night in winter as a food fishery, when returns were in the tens of thousands.

They stopped 40 years ago, when returns were in the 4,000 to 5,000 a year.

Thompson Steelhead Working Group, comprised of federal and provincial governments as well as First Nations and stakeholder groups, is seeking feedback on a proposed recovery plan.

The document and survey can be found online at thompsonsteelhead.ca and the survey is open until Dec. 16.

Walkem said part of the problem is the neither the federal nor provincial government has taken ownership of the problem.

The federal government is concerned only through commercial fishing while the province is concerned through sport fishing — both taking a legalistic view while the resource perishes.

The focus now, he said is to come up with a framework for recovery “and to start working on it.”

A federal committee is looking at species at risk designation for Thompson steelhead.

 

Walkem said he is unsure whether that will help or hinder the recovery effort.