Three years’ worth of work by local volunteers and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has concluded.
Over the past three years, various means of assessing the fisheries situation at Cowichan Lake have been taking place, funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund and the Valley Fish and Game Club.
“It provides the biologists with a host of information to assess the health of the lake,” Wilderness Watch member Sandy Peters said.
Volunteer groups have included the Wilderness Watch, the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, and unaffiliated community volunteers.
The most recent test took place August 25 and 26, when four standard experimental gill nets were deployed at two locations, including Nixon Creek near Caycuse, and Shaw Creek west of Youbou.
The gill nets were set overnight, and retrieved a total of 58 fish, including; 28 cutthroat trout with an average size of 32 centimetres; 15 rainbow trout with an average size of 25 centimetres; 16 dolly varden trout with an average size of 31 centimetres; one kokanee and one coho.
Volunteers with the Valley Fish and Game Club helped biologists Tracy Michalski and Georgina Fosker with the stock assessment, and learned fish sampling techniques such as identification, length and weight recording, scale sampling for ageing the fish, stomach content, as well as sex and maturity data.
“It’s all kinds of things that we need to identify to protect the lives of the fish,” Peters said.
Other efforts over the past three years have included interviewing anglers, various other gill net counts, diving surveys, and many fish samplings.
It’s now up to the biologists to make something of the information gathered over the past three years, in hopes of creating future conservation goals that make sense for the Cowichan Lake and River.
Then, Peters said, the hope is to extend the program for another three years.
“This is a very important lake in the area, and an excellent recreational lake,” he said.
The Gazette will relay the results garnered from the three years’ worth of efforts, as it becomes available.