Region 8 - Okanagan

Rick Simpson - Oceola Fish and Game Club

Brian Hancock - Grand Forks Wildlife Association


Rick Simpson - Oceola Fish and Game Club

“Water is a huge issue.  All the water in the Okanagan Valley is managed, primarily for domestic use and agriculture needs.  We’ve been a voice to keep water for fish too. One of our largest allies have been the First Nations”

Rick Simpson, Oceola Fish and Game Club.

Among many other things, Rick Simpson is the volunteer director and co-chair on the fisheries committee for BCWF Region 8 and the Oceola Fish and Game Club (OFGC).  Regional President, Ken Sward immediately recommended him as a contact for discussing conservation works in the Okanagan valley.   “He dedicates much more of his time than most of us can – but he does it”. So when I contacted Simpson to speak about some of his conservation initiatives over the past 30 years, he was quick to impress upon me that the conservation successes he’s participated in could not have been possible without the dedication of many passionate volunteers.  At Rick’s request, this article is not about him, but about some of the conservation successes of the whole OFGC.

“…The Oceola Fish and Game Club, like many other F&G clubs primarily started as a Hunting and Fishing camp, but quickly took on the shroud of conservation over the years …”

In 1983, nine lonely Kokanee swam up Middle Vernon Creek in the arid countryside of Okanagan valley. Today some 8000 can be counted in the creek thanks largely in part to the work of OFGC volunteers. Middle Vernon Creek connects to Wood Lake, a high-nutrient lake that produces larger-than average kokanee. Unfortunately the connection is often blocked by woody debris, beaver dams, and log jams, restricting fish passage.  For countless hours each summer, the OFGC clear away this debris so the kokanee can travel unimpeded. This past summer, an unusually ferocious freshet stripped the banks, stream bed, and riparian zone, leaving 25 substantial log jams in the creek. This took hundreds of man hours to remove but the OFGC were up to the task.

Again, Rick reminded us that it is the volunteers that make a difference for the fish. Since the 80’s, fisheries budgets have been dropping steadily - causing the government to download obligations to communities and volunteers.   The OFGC assists biologists by tagging fish, monitoring spawning numbers, and conducting in-stream counts. They also collect lake and stream temperature and oxygen profiles as an early warning system for fish kills. If that were not enough, OFGC operates their own hatchery program where they rear upwards of 80,000 eggs to fry. Partially due to its groundwater fed source, the hatchery has a 95-98% survival rate.

Managing the volunteers can be a job on its own.  Over 200 volunteers showed up to the last creek clean up, requiring lots of coordination behind the scenes before and after to make sure everybody is fed, has a role to play, and ensuring each volunteer gets a thank-you note.  It’s easy to see how a single cleanup event can take 4 months of planning.  Because many volunteers can often only commit a few hours at a time and planning is so time consuming, it’s easy for the die hards in the group to get stretched thin. That being said, many of the volunteers truly believe in their role and will continue to return as long as the Kokanee need help.

“If the fishery is going to continue to be healthy, we have to put some effort into it.    Our club has been doing its bit.”

The Oceola Fish and Game club has had ongoing habitat and restoration projects running for almost 40 years.  We commend their efforts and
dedication to Fish and Wildlife.

Find out more:
"Urban Growth a Challenge to a Kokanee Stream"
"Kokanee Free Again After Creek Clean-up"
"Wood Lake Kokanee Fishery Under Attack and in Need of Help
"Summer Clean-up at Middle Vernon Creek"

-Written by Jason Jobin


Brian Hancock - Grand Forks Wildlife Association

Watch the video below to hear Grand Forks Wildlife Association President, Brian Hancock, speak about how his club is restoring ungulate winter range in the Grand Forks area.