The good news is that the rainbow trout are spawning and their size and numbers are beyond what was expected. That speaks volumes about efforts to restore creeks impacted by development, and about a program to rid local lakes of a pest fish that likely isnt indigenous to the area.
The bad news for the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group is that someone has introduced a breed of carp, Koi, to a local pond that could have the potential to spread.
To help count the spawners in local creeks, the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group is looking for volunteers to do visual counts. Training and equipment are provided by the WFSG.
"Its been really exciting to the see the fish returning this year," said Veronica Woodruff, a fish and wildlife technician for the RMOW. "Especially in Jordan Creek. There are a lot of good looking (rainbow trout) coming into that creek, they are bigger fish and theyre in greater numbers. Scotia Creek is another good one. The fish are visible in there, and this is a creek that has been heavily impacted by developments. Theyre coming back."
In addition to programs to rehabilitate our rivers over the years, a four-year-old program to stock Alta Lake with sterilized Cutthroat Trout has also had a positive impact. The Cutthroats appear to be doing their job keeping the population of sticklebacks down.
Sticklebacks are likely a non-native fish that compete with resident salmon and rainbow trout for food.
In addition to spawning counts, the WFSG is looking for volunteers to help with various projects over the summer, including restoration, planting, water quality surveying and invertebrate surveys. If you would like to help out this year, you can contact Veronica at email@example.com.
As for the Koi, the WFSG has been in contact with the provincial government, which is sending a representative to Whistler next week to check out the problem.
The issue with the carp is that they can damage the ecosystem, driving out native species of fish. Although Woodruff has not seen the fish in Millars Pond, she has heard that they have been there at least a year, and survived through the winter.
"We dont really know a lot about them, how many there are or how they got there, but were taking it pretty seriously," said Woodruff.
The Koi are essentially large goldfish and have already spread throughout much of the Lower Mainland.
Woodruff is contacting people who live in the area to find out if they know anything about the fish, who put them there and how long theyve been in the pond. The plan is to remove them all before they have the opportunity to spread to other waterways.
"There is an outflow to that pond, but I dont think it would be easily passable, but we want to get on this early so they dont even have a chance to get out," said Woodruff. Theyre not strong enough to swim up river, but if they can get into the Cheakamus system they can potentially cause problems."
To remove the fish they will drop feed into the water, getting them to associate an area of the pond with food. Once they are accustomed to this, the WFSG will net the Koi.
Anyone who has any information on the Koi is asked to contact Woodruff, once again at firstname.lastname@example.org.