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Specifically the Bow river.

My experience, no longer the blue ribbon Bow, boasting 2000 fish per mile..

A depleted fish population for sure with RELENTLESS angling pressure.

A common occurrence for me was finding a willing fish and discovering that it had been hooked several times before.

Did I hear that another fish count was/is underway ?

I do not see the volume of juvenile trout rising, especially on lower bow that I'm used too.

My season had a few select highlights but overall very disappointing and I'm concerned.

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I second that and agree with everything you said  to many people to many guides and not enough government support.Worst year I have seen in my life .

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 I am in the Upper Bow area and concur. Lousy season. 

I caught a juvenile Mountain Whitefish in Quarry Pond which is in Canmore and a favourite spot. This has historically been an Arctic Grayling Lake. Clearly some sneaky stuff has been going on. It has also become a playground for everyone including: kayakers, paddle boarders, swimmers, pot smoking, booze drinking selfie taking twitterers, off leash dog walkers, swimming racers, local school running classes, cyclists, people who change from street clothes into swimming attire in public, (I don’t mind the women frankly, the show is good LOL), SCUBA divers (!), litter droppers and I am just gutted. 

To quote Mr Bird in the recent issue of Fly Fusion Magazine...fishing sucks. I however am not being satirical. 

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Last year a researcher at the University of Calgary did a retrospective statistical analysis from 20 years of Bow River Fish Population Surveys. Although the focus was on Rainbow Trout, that showed a 40 to 50% drop in there population from 2003 to 2013, AEP confirmed that all sports fish in the Bow River continue to decline. If that is the case, the Rainbow Trout population could be at 25 to 30% of 2003 data. Or possibly  reaching a non-sustainable level. There is hope that Alberta Environment & Parks will take the lead to develop a policy for fish recovery in the Bow River. But recent attempts to close fisheries have not been implemented. Many within the fishing community believe single barbless hook, special angling licenses, enhancement to fish habitat and water flow management will help. Fishing pressure continues to increase and without government intervention the fishing community needs to take responsibility to support good fish handling techniques - possible reduce the current fish counting obsession as a successful day's fishing and cut back the number of fish caught by reducing the days fished. If not we can say goodbye to the Bow River trout fishery in future years.

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My first thought is seasonal closures.

I do remember your data from last year.

My question is why the loss of rainbows?

Allways have had anglers, poachers, birds, floods...

I still feel even though the rebound from Sapro that the Brown population is about 25% of what it was several years preflood 

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In my view, it is mostly due to the change in habitat and conditions. The number of fish in the Bow = too what the habitat can sustain.

The great flood of 2013 both destroyed and changed the habitat for aquatic plants, invertebrates and all species of fish. Now, the river is slowly recovering at the base of the food chain (aquatic plants, moss's, algae, diatoms,). This recovery is slow and closing the fishery will not assist, or speed up the recovery in any significant way. The vast number of Pelicans, Osprey, Cormorants, Bald Eagles is an obvious indication that there is still sufficient fish populations in the Bow for sustainability and eventual recovery.

As for the statistical analysis of some phd student at the U of C based on fish count/catch, creel survey data, that has as wide a margin of interpreted error as the guy holding a 21" brown out for the camera selfie claiming it's 24". (And yes I have read the report.)

The Bow will recover. Patience people, patience....

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I’ve got agree that it stems from the flood ?

wipe out a few classes of fish, less fish to reproduce and add more pressure, habitat loss and here we are.

Not sure if patience is the best solution .

 

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There are some important man made issues that are having a negative impact that we need to address. Flow stability, city development, the relentless expansion of rip rap walls (the city stretch is quickly turning the Bow into an aqueduct), organic pollution from storm drain catch basins/outfalls, ongoing and heavy use of agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, to name a few.

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1 hour ago, toolman said:

 

As for the statistical analysis of some guy at the U of C based on fish count/catch, survey data that has as wide a margin of error as the guy holding a 21" brown out for the camera selfie claiming it's 24".

The Bow will recover. Patience people, patience....

Lol, such a typical response. the stats must be wrong, everything’s fine, the bow will recover.if there’s one sure way to get us to the bottom, it’s to do nothing  

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Come on everyone - don't live in a state of denial. The Bow River trout population will never revert to what it once was in the '90 and early part of this century. Too much man made intervention has changed and is irreversible!:

  • Calgary Waste Water Treatment Plants have cleaned up the river - I can remember when the weeds were so thick you could almost walk across the river. The cleanup of the river has seen a demise of invertebrate habitat for much of the year and therefore the spectrum of bug life has changed. A drop in caddis and mayflies lava and an increase in stone-flies. This will hopefully continue, but no guarantees.
  • The historical water management model put in place by the governments of both Canada and Alberta many years ago gave us reasonable stable flows outside of spring runoff. Now we are faced with the GOA intervention in these norms to protect the City of Calgary against future flooding. Don't blame TransAlta for this - its a GOA directive. After the disaster of water management in the early part of the modifies water management operations from April to July 2018, Transalta have recognized the importance of stable flows to the fishing community and have done there best to meet projected demands from AEP while stabilizing variants in flows as best they can for the past 2 years. What we have seen this year is the impact of rainfall over the Calgary. Some days the flows increased by as much as 100 cms over less than an hour when the rain gods dumped water across our city. Don't blame Transalta but pray to the rain gods to respect the fishing community.
  • Although the Bow River modified water management operations each spring will not change for 10 to 15 years. Distasteful as they may be, the proposed addition to dams on the upper Bow River could well improve and stabilize flows through and downstream of Calgary. See a post I put up on the web a few days ago. Go to one of the information meetings later this month to get a better understanding of the proposals. The future of our fishery is in your hands.
  • Will or should we see a cull of pelicans, cormorants and other fish loving predators? Probably not. Angling, even with CnR may well contribute more fish loss that predators!

So what left? Angling pressure and habitat enhancement. I put my money of river closure and fishing gear restrictions.

Yes, the Bow River is still a good recreation fishery and with some help can be maintained for future generations - but it will never return to what some of us old guys knew 20  plus years ago as a world class Blue Ribbon Fishery

 

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, fishinglibin said:

Does Trans Alta have some of the blame as well?

 

Unfortunately flood mitigation trumps fisheries/recreational concerns. I'm not generally a conspiracy theorist but add to that the likelihood of power generation profiteering under the guise of flow management just may explain the weird flows we've seen the last few seasons. 

I would like to see the fall city closure again. Close the mouth of the Highwood/Fishcreek for Rainbows in the spring. Social media has made an Instragram gong show of those locations.

Fertilize the Bow below the water intake like they do in BC to restore steelhead/salmon stream. Yes, we have world class sewage treatment but lack of nutrients may slow/stall recovery. Keep in mind that this is a tailwater fishery that otherwise has little to no downstream recruitment of nutrients nor spawning gravel. This would kick start the recovery of invertebrates etc. lost due to the 2013 flood.

Licence and manage the guiding biz that exploits our shared natural resource for free. Rod days or some such mechanism.

If anyone knows any of the Tran Alta shareholders that fly fish, I recommend you try to educate them to the current dire state of our fishery.

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1 hour ago, bcubed said:

Lol, such a typical response. the stats must be wrong, everything’s fine, the bow will recover.if there’s one sure way to get us to the bottom, it’s to do nothing  

Lol, such a typical troll response. Attack, vilify and criticize. Nothing in the way of constructive input or suggested solutions. Keyboard warrior of the day...

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13 minutes ago, tika said:

Lol, such a typical troll response. Attack, vilify and criticize. Nothing in the way of constructive input or suggested solutions. Keyboard warrior of the day...

This has come up at least 3 or 4 times since the report came out, and once again we’d hate for a bit of self-reflection from anglers. Whirling disease, climate change, flow control (or lack thereof), 2013 flood, nutrient load, flood control, riprap, angling pressure.. you tell me which is the lowest hanging fruit. 

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There is one obvious FACT that has eluded some people in this discussion... The decline in Bow river trout and aquatic invertebrate populations are uniform from Banff too the Bassano dam, regardless of the degree of fishing pressure.

And how we interpret statistical data can be subject to flaws in perception. For example, lets say we analyzed the anual fish eating, avian predator counts for the past 20 years. Pelican's, Cormorants, Osprey, Eagles. We could come to the conclusion that since their numbers on the Bow have increased significantly, then there must be more fish! Which we know is not the case.  

The rise in these Avian predators is mostly due to the fact that we have been stocking lakes and ponds all over southern Alberta and in many community lakes in the Calgary area. Storm ponds are full of Goldfish, Prussian Carp, and we have numerous stocked put and take public lakes, private ponds, (golf courses), Irrigation Canals full of thousands of trapped fish and so forth in the area. We have been doing this for many decades. It has become a fish eating Paradise for these birds.

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42 minutes ago, toolman said:

There is one obvious FACT that has eluded some people in this discussion... The decline in Bow river trout and aquatic invertebrate populations are uniform from Banff too the Bassano dam, regardless of the degree of fishing pressure.

 

Where is the report that indicates this?

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"The decline in Bow river trout and aquatic invertebrate populations are uniform from Banff too the Bassano dam, regardless of the degree of fishing pressure."

Can you expand on this or share the reference we can take a look at? Thx

 

 

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1 hour ago, bcubed said:

This has come up at least 3 or 4 times since the report came out, and once again we’d hate for a bit of self-reflection from anglers. Whirling disease, climate change, flow control (or lack thereof), 2013 flood, nutrient load, flood control, riprap, angling pressure.. you tell me which is the lowest hanging fruit. 

I for one had been in denial since the report(s) came out and up until last year before I really notified the obvious decline in rainbow population. Year prior was a little better.

If I remember correctly when the stats or report came out it was a sampling from a small section of river and perhaps not not entirely accurate. my understanding.

My network of buddies , guides etc. goes pretty deep, we all talked about poor fishing , decline etc, floods , birds, rip rap, pressure, drought, heat, rain, cold, climate change, water up and down all the time and on and on.

Im a little slower than others when it comes to realizing the full picture but point is I get it and am concerned.

Whatever the process lets do it.

Reflection period is over.

This is a crisis I'm all ears.

 

 

 

 

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For those interested: Bow River Trout Foundation is hosting a Fall Fishing Festival on Sept 28th. At the dinner portion of the event some of the issues mentioned above will be presented and discussed: Further synopsis below:

Paul Christensen, Senior Bow River Basin Fishery Biologist, will be presenting the population update. He will touch on the following topics during his presentation:

  • How a population estimate is accomplished.
  • The 2018 population summary from the survey completed in September 2018.
  • A short summary of the 2019 fishery population study (took place from September 9-13th.)
  • Age Growth for the Bow River trout
    • how quickly they grow
    • how large a certain age fish is
    • how large/old when they start to spawn
  • Summary of 2018 Creel Survey including a look at angler effort and where anglers are from.
  • Some projects that have been happening within the Bow System.
  • Some thoughts on what the Bow Fishery looks like into the future.

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Alberta Environment & Parks has indicated  that a Bow River Fish Population Cumulative Effect Computer Modelling Program is being developed. It will include all the possible reasons for the decline in trout populations. It is clear that no single reason for the decline has been identified, but there is evidence that combination of effects can contribute to a greater influence on fish population declines. For example the combination of less organic content in water water + variable flows could have a greater cumulative effect impact than for example whirling disease  + loss of spawning habitat. But maybe vise-versa

Another example could well be the impact of less organic content in the river that results in less weeds in combination with a year round open fishing season will increase catch rates far more than if the organic content was higher. The weeds are the issue here - more weeds - less fishable water. 

It is my understanding that the concept of Cumulative Effect Computer Modelling will be presented at the Bow River Trout Fall Fishing Festival. But lets hope the complete data set of information is made public by AEP at the same time.

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We need to start a restocking program for both brown trout and rainbows. That's how the Bow became the "Blue Ribbon Bow" in the first place, thanks to the AE Cross trout hatchery, started at their Brewery back in 1938 and operated  until the late 1950's, (60's?). And back then, most anglers bait fished and whacked all of the fish caught. 100% morality vs 2-3% C&R mortality we have today, which is statistically insignificant to a sustainable fishery. 

Capture wild breeding stock from the Bow and get the Sam Livingston hatchery making lots of babies. Restock the river annually from Bearspaw too Bassano with lots of trout. Back to "Blue Ribbon" status in a decade or less.

Better than sitting around for the next 10 years and risk watching the fishery collapse further, while we needlessly endure useless angler closures, destroy the flyfishing tourism industry, (Estimated $24 milllon annually) and put all of the local Outfitting/flyshops out of business.

Lets get started, right now. 

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17 hours ago, toolman said:

The Bow will recover. Patience people, patience....

7 hours ago, toolman said:

Better than sitting around for the next 10 years watching the fishery collapse further

 

17 hours ago, toolman said:

The vast number of Pelicans, Osprey, Cormorants, Bald Eagles is an obvious indication that there is still sufficient fish populations in the Bow for sustainability and eventual recovery.

 

14 hours ago, toolman said:

Pelican's, Cormorants, Osprey, Eagles. We could come to the conclusion that since their numbers on the Bow have increased significantly, then there must be more fish! Which we know is not the case.  

The rise in these Avian predators is mostly due to the fact that we have been stocking lakes and ponds all over southern Alberta and in many community lakes in the Calgary area. Storm ponds are full of Goldfish, Prussian Carp, and we have numerous stocked put and take public lakes, private ponds, (golf courses), Irrigation Canals full of thousands of trapped fish and so forth in the area. We have been doing this for many decades. It has become a fish eating Paradise for these birds.

 

You're a confusing man.

I would suspect that stocking is a bit of a non-starter, at least for rainbow trout as they are trying to get away from introducing additional rainbows to areas with WSCT. Furthermore, if we are truly having an invertebrate problem, then why would adding more fish to the mix help? We'd likely have a lot more little guys, so it would be a question of quality over quantity.. The relentless angling pressure that was described in the OP is definitely starting to have a toll from a 'quality' perspective.

11 hours ago, jasonvilly said:

Paul Christensen, Senior Bow River Basin Fishery Biologist, will be presenting the population update. He will touch on the following topics during his presentation:

  • Some thoughts on what the Bow Fishery looks like into the future.

 

I think this will be the most important piece of the presentation, see where the government actually sees this river going. Are they just looking at keeping it at current levels and have people just realise this is the new norm, or will there be an attempt to actually get it 'back' to the way it was. Considering Bull Trout just got listed on SARA, and the current government's tendency to not fund, I'm not sure how much focus the Bow will be getting from the limited resources out there. Maybe someone needs to take Nixon and Kenney for a float..

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There is a need for all of us to recognize that we have a different sense of urgency on the Bow River fish population decline based on when one starting fishing the Bow. This has been described by academia as a Shifting Baseline: 

"Why is it that a young fisherman views his catch of a few scrawny sardines as natural, while an old-timer sees it as the sad scraps of an ocean once brimming with giant wildlife? Two decades ago, renowned fisheries expert Daniel Pauly introduced “shifting baselines syndrome” to explain our generational blindness to environmental destruction. In recent years the idea has found a particular advocate in George Monbiot, a respected environmental writer. Oceana spoke with Monbiot and Pauly to learn how much we’ve lost, and what it will take to make abundance the ocean’s new baseline".

https://oceana.org/blog/daniel-pauly-and-george-monbiot-conversation-about-shifting-baselines-syndrome

Give some thought to this - for me I think back 20 years and see a dramatic change - for those who have only fished the Bow since the 2013 flood (the majority?) see minimal change. AEP regional fishery biologists are aware of the different action that is needed to meet a multitude of opinions. Will, or is it even possible to return the Bow River fish population back to the glory day? Almost impossible!

 

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1- Worst season ever, P.S. been fishing the Bow for over 30 years

2- F&W doing a fish count last Friday, sept 13

3- For me and fishing buddies, a good day on the Bow means good company, nice weather, and one or two releases, this year had the first 2 but lacked the 3rd

4- “The River is not the same as it was...... nor am I, and likely never will be, but still could be a nice recreational fishery 

5- Concerned that this might increase pressure on other accessible fisheries like mountain streams

6- Would not object to additional regulations and/or constraints on the level of pressure e.g special licenses or seasonal closures or other such measures, as long as they are applied universally e.g all fishers regardless of residency

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So I fish the Elbow and the population there has definitely changed; when I first fished it 25+ years ago there were fish rising everywhere and the sizes ranged from tiddlers to 20 inch fish. I caught mainly browns, but there were brookies, rainbows, bulls, whitefish, cutties and pike. Last fall I fished it and there were fish rising and I caught tiddlers and decent sized fish of around 15 inches mainly browns but some rainbows and whitefish.  That being said the population numbers are down, the holding water is completely changed due to 2013, but I don't think the pressure is any higher. I rarely see any other anglers. Any thoughts and theories on this?

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