Stream Tender Magazine

December 2016 Issue

Bighill Creek Regulation Change Proposal—Update

    In 2015, Bow Valley Habitat Development submitted a proposal for a fishing regulation change to ASRD Fish & Wildlife. The proposal was supported by a letter from the mayor of Cochrane, after review by town council. The response that I received back from the regional biologist, earlier this year, was that the proposal was sent in too late in the year of 2015, to see any consideration on the request.

    BVHD has re-submitted the request on October 8th of this fall. In the proposal, a request for year round closure for three important spawning tributaries to the Bighill Creek system, was made. Also, included in the proposal was a modification to the seasonal closures on the BH Creek, to protect fall spawning trout.

    In recent years, a small tributary to the Elbow River was closed all year, to protect the native cutthroat trout population, so I know that such closures are very possible by fisheries managers. All it takes, is a little interest to protect our area trout populations during their vulnerable spawning events. After all, reproduction of new generations of trout does maintain the area’s sport fishery and it also enhances biodiversity in the eco system.

    We will see what happens this year, with my proposal. I will let you know in a future issue of this magazine. I am not about to give up on this very important matter.

“Micro Management of Our Urban Fisheries”

    Trout streams that flow thru our communities are under threat from a number of influences that can have a negative impact on the survival of the species. Storm drains, surface ground water runoff, loss of habitat and so on.

    This makes it necessary to intervene on behalf of the trout that populate those streams. Not only water quality and habitat issues need to be addressed and measures taken, but specialized fisheries management regulations need to be put in place. This is all falls under the category or the title - Fisheries Micro-management.

    I know from experience how a lot of small negative impacts to a trout stream’s health and wellbeing can add up over time. Slowly, a once healthy trout fishery can collapse, without some well needed attention.

    Too often, I have been informed by fisheries managers that blanket regulations on a watershed is the preferred approach, but I personally feel that trout streams located in a densely populated communities need special attention.

    With all of the problems relating to the environment and survival of fish and wildlife in this world today,

I think it is important that we start working on some issues in our own backyard.

    By taking care of the natural environment of a flowing trout stream located within a town or city, we can demonstrate that  some positive accomplishments can be made. All on a grass roots approach.  Rather than just writing off a trout stream as a loss and one less thing to worry about.

    By doing so, we can all send an important message to the next generation that really does care about the life of a trout stream, which is an important natural resource in our community.

A Look Back at the Millennium Creek Restoration Program

    It has been 8 years now, since the Millennium Creek restoration program was completed. This small spring fed creek, located in the Town of Cochrane, was nothing more than a wetted matt of grass, before the restoration project was started. The stream channel had flowing water to keep the grass green throughout the summer months, but that was about it.

    Over a period of four years, the small spring creek was brought back to life and it now has a resident trout population. Not only that, but the stream is an important spawning tributary now. In the fall of the year, brook trout return to the creek to spawn their eggs.

    Every year, a new generation of young trout migrate into the Bighill Creek and replenish the stocks. Since the completion of the project, thousands of trout have hatched on the creek over the last 8 years. As part of the restoration work, spawning habitat was created on Millennium Creek, and the trout started to spawn on that first year after the project was completed.

    The restoration project was a partnership program organized by Bow Valley Habitat Development. The primary partners involved in bringing the creek back to life were as follows:

·          TransAlta

·          The Alberta Conservation Association

·          The Town of Cochrane

·          Inter Pipeline

·          Shell Canada

·          The Cochrane Foundation

·          Plus support from volunteers of Cochrane and small business.

    In 2010, an additional spawning channel was constructed by BVHD and Inter Pipeline, to further enhance trout reproduction on the creek. It is estimated that thousands of new brook trout hatch on the creek annually, which is a major contribution to the Bighill Creek’s trout fishery.

    In total, 5 years of work went into this program, but the results over the past 8 years have made the investment well worth it. There are many years of new generations of trout yet to hatch on this small spring fed stream. An annual BVHD maintenance program insures the future health of the stream.

Above: This photo shows a length of channel before the program was started.

Above: This is a photo of the same length of channel a few years later. As of 2016, most of the stream channel is now hidden by willows and trees.

Millennium Creek Project Volunteers

    The restoration of Millennium Creek, over the four year period in the mid to late 2000’s, involved a lot of volunteer support. Bow Valley Habitat Development thought that it was important to give the community an opportunity to take part in the rebuilding of the stream, from the beginning.

    Young people played a major role in this part of the program. Both the Cochrane Scout Troop and other youth groups chipped in on some simple, yet important, work projects.

    Other participants consisted mainly of fly fisher’s that foresaw the importance of the restoration work, from a sport fishing perspective.

Above: A summer youth group gets dirty, helping out on the Millennium Creek restoration project. Kids always enjoy working in the mud, while doing something of interest. On this project they were helping out on some riparian landscaping on the creek.

Above: Local bothers and fly fishermen Terry and Phil Sheepy help me out on the installation of a log V-weir built on the stream channel.

Silt Containment During the Restoration Program

Above: A number of silt fences and silt trap pools were in place along the stream channel, during the restoration program. This was carried out to reduce the amount of silt loading into the Bighill Creek and Bow River, downstream. These pools and fences were maintained daily.

Below: A 10 inch corrugated plastic  flow by-pass system was used during the construction of pool habitats and other instream activities.

Above: Brook trout spawning in Millennium Creek during the 2016 fall spawning season.

“The Grass Roots Approach”

    There is an assumption by many that our provincial or federal government has both the resources and inclination to look after every trout fishery in a given area. Including home waters both in and near a community. This assumption is false. There are just too many flowing trout waters for managers to spend much time focusing on.

    With this in mind, the best approach is for local stake holders to get involved. When I say stake holders, I am not just talking about sport fisher’s, but also those that feel it is important to protect and conserve our natural ecosystems. Because all flowing streams are crown land, they are essentially public property and there is a responsibility to take care of them.

    However, with local streams flowing thru private property, it is necessary to have those land owners interested in getting involved. Once this first hurtle is crossed, grass roots organizations can take measures to benefit the trout fishery or riparian habitat along those streams.

    Grass roots endeavours to enhance and protect trout streams is the best approach. By organizing local involvement, there is potential to make a real difference in maintaining and improving the health of a trout stream into the future. I know this, because I have witnessed it happen over the years.

    It is always nice to have the support of your local government agencies when taking on such programs, but this can be challenging at times. There can be a lot of red tape nightmares involved in organizing any projects that you feel may benefit an area stream, but this is typical these days. If you’re lucky, a regional biologist may be enthusiastic enough to help you out.

    Another benefit to any enhancement program that you may decide to take on, is to have one or more professional people involved in your project. For fish habitat enhancement or riparian plantings, this can narrow the field to those that have both the experience and knowledge of how to go about things. This can be a major benefit.

    Sometimes, when the challenge of getting the ball rolling on a worthwhile project gets me down, I think of the old adage; “Where There’s a Will — There’s a Way”. In my own experience this is very true and it has helped keep me going over the years.

TU Conducting Spawning Survey on West Nose Creek

    Over the past few years, Bow Valley Habitat Development has been collaborating with the head office of Trout Unlimited and the Bow River Chapter of TU. The cooperation is directed towards organizing a join effort at planning some worthwhile projects for West Nose Creek.

    Information sharing is a large part of this partnership. I was really please to hear that this fall, Elliot Lindsay and

volunteers from the Bow River Chapter are conducting a spawning survey on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary.

    Last year, I sent a report on the findings of BVHD’s spawning survey on to both the head office and the Calgary Chapter for review. Elliot Lindsay shared some of his survey work with BVHD. Since that first cooperative effort, more information on the West Nose Creek has

exchanged  hands.

   This information sharing is the first step in growing the scope of the West Nose Creek trout fishery restoration program. The more people and groups involved, the faster the creek will see some real change.

    It is my hope that the findings from the Trout Unlimited survey will be ready by the end of November, so I can include this information in the December magazine.