Stream Tender Magazine

December 2016 Issue

West Nose Creek Spawning Brown Trout 2016

    It has been an eventful year for the West Nose Creek Urban Fisheries Program. The first big thing to happen was the documenting of a successful incubation of brown trout eggs from last year’s spawning event. This occurred when an 80 mm juvenile brown trout was captured in August of this year.

    The second big discovery happened this fall, when another key spawning habitat was mapped and documented approximately 10 kilometres upstream of the confluence with Nose Creek. The result was a record breaking number of brown trout redds or egg nests mapped this fall. The total came to 31 brown trout redds.

    The higher number of trout redds further up the creek may have been the result of a blockage clearing program that BVHD completed over the summer on West Nose Creek. A few rock dams were opened up to allow fish migration upstream and one rather large, old beaver dam was notched down to streambed level.

    What ever the case may be, there were a lot more spawning trout than last year. I also suspect that a few flood events in July of this year, may have helped some new arrivals of large brown trout to make it upstream from the Bow

River this year. However, this is just a suspicion of mine.

    With growing numbers of brown trout spawning and the discovery of a new generation of hatched trout, the West Nose Creek has once again surprised us all. This has re-enforced my own determination to see the creek develop into a spring creek fishery in the future.

    This season, over 10,000 native plants were planted along the stream bank’s of the West Nose, which will provide future habitat for resident trout. So in years to come, we should see some major changes in the brown trout fishery. Habitat is key in supporting a thriving trout fishery and we are well on our way to making this happen.

    The spawning survey and angling survey results will provide good documented  baseline for monitoring how the fishery improves. The results are pasted on to the City of Calgary, Trout Unlimited and SRD Fish and Wildlife. This information is also a useful tool for Bow Valley Habitat Development in gaining support for future programs on the creek.

    This year I captured some great video and photos of large brown trout spawning on the stream.

Above: Bow Valley Habitat Development volunteers modified this rock dam that had been constructed by kids, underneath an overpass, using rock that was intended to amour the bridge. The modifications allowed brown trout to migrate up the stream to spawn this year. The modifications only took minutes to complete, yet the result produced a total of 11 trout redds further upstream. Not a bad return for a few minutes of work.

Above: This series of two brown trout redds are easily identified by the clean gravel mound below a deep depression on the upstream side. The two redds are side by side which makes the combination stand out in the streambed. Female brown trout will wear out part of their tails fanning the gravel when construction and covering an egg nest. They can move some rather large gravel, but in this photo, the gravel is on the small side.

    I prefer to do my spawning surveys during the spawning period, just after the redds are constructed. You can see the trout spawning and also the fresh gravel stands out on the streambed, making it easier to identify. In only a few weeks, the gravel will develop an algae coating that makes the redds harder to spot.

Above: This pair of West Nose Creek brown trout were spawning on some large gravel, which makes the size of the trout appear small, but they are not small trout by any means. The female is almost underneath the male.

Male Brown Trout Fertilize Multiple Eggs During the Spawn

    This fall I had the opportunity to watch a single male brown trout spawn with a number of different females during the spawning season. I knew the male trout was the same one, because it had an old scar just below its dorsal fin the was pretty prominent.

    This is typical for dominant male brown trout, which are preferred by the females, due mainly to their size. It insures that the eggs are fertilized by the largest and strongest trout. A very common occurrence with all fish and wildlife. Thus the old adage “Survival of the Strongest”.

    It is rare to have the opportunity to distinguish between large male brown trout, because they all are pretty close in appearance, but the scar on the male that I observed was one of a kind. Fortunately, I managed to get both video and photos of the trout with multiple partners. Check out the photos below.

Above and Below: You can see the scar on the male brown trout in these two photos. It is located just below the dorsal fin. I watched this male brown trout spawn with multiple female brown trout on the same spawning habitat over the fall season.

Scar

“ It is nice to be able to provide some good photos of the actual spawning that took place on West Nose Creek this fall. Hopefully, this will help stir up some interest in the fisheries restoration program on the creek.”

“ This year’s spawning survey on the West Nose Creek, documented a total of 31 brown trout redds or egg nests. This count is up considerably from the 2015 spawning survey on the creek, showing real promise of a trout fishery recovery.”

West Nose Creek  -   The New Primary Challenge

    With the Bighill Creek fisheries restoration program being close to completed, Bow Valley Habitat Development and partners can now focus their attention on the next major challenge for the future. This new challenge is the West Nose Creek system.

    West Nose Creek, in scope, is a far larger project to tackle than Bighill Creek was at the beginning. There are many more kilometres of stream to deal with and the present day condition of the stream’s fish habitat is  very poor. However, this makes the challenge that much more exciting.

    Over the past three years, the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program has planted over 20,000 native willow and tree plants along the stream banks of the West Nose. There is a total of 97 stream bank stability sites that have been planted on and this will continue. So we are off to a great start.

    The new riparian growth will transform the stream, from a channel that is void of willows and trees on most of its course, to a more natural habitat and ecosystem. The new plants will provide future habitat for the resident brown trout populations and help to improve and create spawning habitats.

    BVHD and partners are already working on a another major planting program for this next season, in 2017, so I am excited about this. This ongoing program has the potential to provide the greatest returns in stream restoration.

    Over the past few years, BVHD has also documented spawning and successful incubation and hatch of new generations of brown trout on the creek. This information should lead to future protection of the trout and its reproduction window on the West Nose Creek. Just last year, the stream was upgraded from a Class “D” to a Class “C” stream, which is important for its future significance as a trout fishery.

    With most of the work being carried out in the City of Calgary, there is growing support for the program and this means that we can get a lot more done, in a shorter period of time. So far, Calgary Parks Department has been a really avid supporter of the riparian plantings and hopefully, next year, the Watershed Planning Department (Water Resources) will also be involved.

    A large part of all of these challenges is the support of a keen volunteer force to carry out the work. In 2017, BVHD has plans of expanding the volunteer program to get more area residents involved. Another volunteer opportunity is the Calgary based “Bow River” Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada. They seem to be interested in the program, so we will see where this takes us over the next few years.

    In summary; the West Nose Creek has probably the most potential of all of the streams that I have been involved in restoring in the past, but it will take a lot of planning and work to meet the objectives that are developing over time. In my mind, I can see the end result; a spring creek fishery and natural ecosystem that all can enjoy.

West Nose Creek  -  Future Objectives

    The riparian restoration program on West Nose Creek is of high priority in the fisheries recovery objective. If you want to have a healthy population of brown trout in the creek, you need to make sure that there is adequate habitat to support a population. It is a simple approach for enhancing and creating fish habitat, just by planting native willows and trees along the water’s edge on the creek.

    Having native willows and trees right at the edge of the stream bank can meet all of the requirements for providing excellent trout habitat both above and below the water level in the stream. The cover will also increase the habitat for aquatic invertebrates, a trout’s required diet to sustain life. Forage fish, other than trout will also thrive in the stream.

    The root systems will stabilize stream banks and the branches from the willow and tree plants will constrict the flow in the channel and speed up the streams flow velocity. This will scour thru the silt accumulated on the bottom, to gravel and boulders. Resulting in more invertebrate habitat.

    Exposed cobble and boulders also provide great cover habitat for juvenile trout, during their initial years of life. If there is no gravel then a hard clay may be the end result of a stream cleaning itself out. In either case, the removal of silt loads in the channel will help to improve the water quality in the stream.

    Healthy riparian zones also provide good bio-filtration of surface water run-off, from things like fertilizer.

Riparian Buffer Zone Along the Water’s Edge

Fish Habitat

Willows

and Trees Provide

Shade Keeping Water Cooler

Constricted Flow Scours Down Thru Silt to

Expose Gravel and Boulders

A Network of Root Systems

Stabilize Stream Banks and Prevent Erosion

An effective riparian buffer zone only needs to be a few metres wide on both sides of the stream banks to provide all of the benefits

mentioned.

 

Riparian Zones also create a natural bio-filtration area for the surface water run-off

Important Update:

 

Results from a Trout Unlimited spawning survey on the lower reach of West Nose Creek added an additional 17 brown trout redds to the overall count. Bringing the total number of redds mapped to 48 for the 2016 fall spawning season on West Nose Creek, in Calgary.

Watch the video —  https://youtu.be/8mJlscRYVpw