The B.C. government will begin work to catch, tag and release burbot at Moyie Lake as part of egg collection and repopulation work.
B.C. government officials said the province’s fish biologists and international co-managers will be doing the job to recover populations in the Kootenay River and Kootenay Lake.
This is part of previous successful burbot recovery efforts for the Lower Kootenay population, ranging from areas downstream of Libby Dam in Montana to Kootenay Lake.
“The Lower Kootenay burbot population once supported First Nations fisheries as well as recreational fisheries in Montana, Idaho and British Columbia,” said B.C. government officials. “The population was recognized to be at risk of extirpation during the mid-1990s. When fewer than 50 adult fish were left in the river, a conservation strategy was signed by international co-managers in 2005, including the Government of B.C., Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the University of Idaho.”
The B.C. government said the burbot recovery program started in 2009, successfully brought fertilized eggs from Moyie Lake to be raised in a hatchery in Idaho and later released back into Kootenay Lake and the Kootenay River.
Officials said the hatchery-raised fish are doing well, but they are having some issues.
“Due to habitat limitations from the Libby Dam and floodplain alterations along the Kootenay River, burbot are not spawning successfully in the river,” said the B.C. government. “Moyie Lake egg collections are therefore an essential component of the hatchery production until wild spawning is restored.”
The Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship keeps a close eye on Moyie Lake’s burbot population, as they are a popular sport and subsistence fish as well as a crucial part of the Lower Kootenay recovery program.
“Data collected over the duration of this program confirm that Moyie Lake has a healthy burbot population with approximately 10,000 adult fish,” said the B.C. government.
Officials said all fish handled through this program are released alive.
“An average of 360 fish are handled during the egg-collection efforts in the February spawning period, which is a very low percentage of the estimated spawning population,” said provincial officials. “Biologists collect approximately 0.03% of Moyie Lake’s available eggs per year.”
There will be other activities on the lake related to the fish population.
“Incidentally, a filming crew will be on Moyie Lake for underwater footage of burbot for a freshwater fish documentary during the same time as egg collection,” said B.C. government officials. “The activities of the film crew are separate from and unconnected to the burbot recovery program.”
You can help out with accurate population counting efforts as well, by calling 250 354-6333 when you catch a burbot with a tag.
“In addition to the tag number, anglers are asked to include a description of the location and accurate length, weight and sex of the fish,” said the B.C. government. “Certain tags identify a reward for the person who finds them. If found, people are asked to take a clear photo of the tag or mail it to the regional office, after calling 250 354-6333.”