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Wow this is complicated 

Fishing closures

Gear restrictions 

possible restocking

fertilizing ( for aquatic growth ?)

special licencing

Predator cull

dams

government awareness

Habitat enhancement 

Global warming

Low land runoff

User pressure

Whirling disease

Agree 100% tecks point, River so clean now compared to 15 years ago. Could walk across weeds at glenmore.

15 years ago pods of 3 fish to 50 fish found rising.(honest)

* Can you add some nutrients @ water treatment plant to give river a boost ?

* Is it a bad idea to restock at this point ?

* Enforce a system or complete angling  closure giving River time to reboot ?

* Haven't paid a ton of attention to flow rates this season but seemed way better than prior bunch. Problem addressed and solved ?

 

Ive noticed tons of changes on the Bow, other streams too over the years, at this point doesn't matter. ( Well it does if we counter past mistakes)

This is our River, what we have now. The guys with the big brains get the plan together that well manages what we have and please do ask for help when the time comes.

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My observations for the year:

Numbers of fish is probably at an all time low. I saw very few small fish this year upstream of the Highwood.

The condition factor of the rainbows was improved from last year when they were extremely thin. Many of the rainbows are still not as heavy as they should be.

The amount of good, clean gravel/cobble that provides quality invertebrate habitat has been vastly decreased due to the amount of sediment added to the river from bank destabilization post-flood. There is a huge amount of sediment that is continually been added from disturbed banks and we are presently 6 years after the big flood.

The amount of hooking injuries and fish with no maxillae is getting very significant. A single hook rule should be added. The spinning rod crowd can still get fish with single hooks like the folks in BC

I think it is time for a limit to be set for "guide days". The amount of "professional" boats on the river is huge and the fish are not an unlimited resource. The "professionals", with their continuous presence and higher skill sets are probably facilitating the greatest amount of fish handling (acceptable or poor depending on the boat).

The amount of pharmaceuticals and run-off chemicals entering the river continues to grow with the population of the cities along the river. These chemicals are not removed by the sewage plants. The foreign chemicals are adding significant stressors  to a system that is already under pressure.

The populations of pelicans and cormorants continues to grow. I don't think this will ever be addressed, but they are a factor.

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My season on the Bow was my worst ever in terms of effort/ # of trout caught. Where I live in the Nw stretch, above Crowchild trail, the numbers of fish are significantly down. And this stretch already has considerably less fish than below Calgary. Small rainbow trout numbers have really crashed. The browns are about the same as last season, but hardly impressive catch rates. Only have taken 3 whitefish, despite protection for this species. I used to have days I could catch multiple numbers in a single evening of this vanishing species. Most of my bigger rainbows were taken in May, prime spawning time. It should have remained closed during the spring season. Now that it is open all year, I see guys hitting the redds hard a lot of days. The river is in trouble, and yet, as mentioned, there seems to be an all time high in numbers of mergansers and ospreys in this stretch. But angling pressure has increased substantially. More fishermen fishing for less, highly educated trout leads to a very mediocre fishing experience these days.

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So far this season has been the best I've had since I started floating the Bow in '85.  Some phenominal days and some average days.

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Plenty of interesting comments/observations in this thread.  I don't fish the Bow much at all, but I might add a few questions/comments to the discussion:

When comparing the Bow to how it was "x" years ago, one thing that doesn't seem to be discussed much is the fact that Calgary has grown so much over those past "x" years, to now a city of well over 1 million.  As the city has grown, how has water quality been affected - more concrete/pavement (and runoff from same, washing in who knows what), more treated sewage water volume, more developments along the riverbanks, altering the banks and sedimentation, etc.

Also, it seems to me that when we talk about the health of the fishery, we focus primarily on the trout (for obvious reasons) - but isn't it the entire riverine ecosystem that we should be examining?  Maybe we are - but what about the health of invertebrates in the river (trout food), and other fish species like whitefish, suckers (competitors for trout food)?

 

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eotr I am glad to hear you had a good year. As I only fished dries 95% of the time after the first week of July, my sampling technique is from a pretty narrow set of fish. I think with the increase in angler numbers the fish are getting more educated and perhaps they will be selecting smaller, sub-surface flies more in the future. The hopper fishing this year was great fun and think a lot of people enjoyed that. I am curious about your catch rates. Do you think on average you caught over 20 fish per day that were over 15 inches?

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The overriding opinion by just about everyone I have spoken to, including local AEP staff is that the fish populations continue to decline. Although there are a multitude of possible reason for the decline, all probably valid, I believe there are limited actions that AEP can take to to stop the decline and hopefully see some improvement.

My opinion is that the fishing community needs to recognize the Bow River water supply management is controlled by government policy to protect cities against flooding and agricultural needs downstream. This will not change. But we can expect to see improvements in the daily operations of water release to enhance fishing opportunities.

Although the Calgary waste water treatment plants put less biomass into the Bow River nowadays, far less than 20 years ago, it still exists, but in less quantity. The result is that there is less fish habitat and a change in invertebrate life. We just don't see consistent caddis and mayfly hatches through the day and year. Other food sources such as stoneflies and grasshoppers change from year to year depending on life cycle and weather conditions. So what are we left with? Subsurface invertebrates in lower numbers and a limited dry fly hatch that is not always fishable due to environmental and daylight conditions. Our only consistent accessible dry fly fishery will probably be limited to the fall Blue Winged-Olive hatch. Therefore the dream of year-round dry fly fishing is a thing of the past on the Bow River. If the desire is to catch fish consistently throughout the day, nymphing is the only option. I personally have a problem accepting this, therefore have to face the reality I either change fishing techniques, move to other rivers, or quit altogether!

This is what we are faced with - a depleted invertebrate population, lower fish numbers, far more fishing pressure and advance fishing techniques that consistently catch more fish. There is only one way for the fishery to go without fishery management change and that is downward!

  

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Fish habitat has nothing to do with invertebrate biomass, and we have definitely seen a decrease in actual hectares of habitat since the flood.

Has anyone talked to Post or Jackson at UofC to see if anyone is actually seeing a decrease in invert populations in the Bow or an actual decrease in nutrient load (@monger); as I’m not sure that’s actually being tracked

 

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4 years ago after the snowmagedon winter in Calgary, the city of Calgary built a snow dump located near 32 Ave and deerfoot trail next to the white dome tent at the golf course, the city sends loaders and trucks out to remove snow from neighborhoods and hauls it to the snow dump to be piled up until spring when it can melt, the snow is not the only thing loaded on those trucks, all of the salt that the city lays down is collected and dumped with the snow, when the snow melts in the spring,the melt water containing all of that salt (and oil and whatever else was in the snow) flows from the snow dump directly into Nose Creek that then flows into the Bow river near the science center, last year the banks below Nose Creek on the Bow river had snow and ice free banks weeks before the banks of the Bow above Nose Creek.

 

I have not seen this metioned but I think there is some correlation to the declining fish numbers since the snow dump went into use.

 

Next spring have a look at the water flowing out of Nose Creek during the melt...it smells like the ocean.

 

 

This mountain of snow salt and oil lasts long into the summer, usually August, the remains of what's left are there right now sitting on the asphalt if anyone wants to see the disgusting mess, I can't imagine this not having a serious negative impact on the health of Nose Creek and the Bow river.

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Willy,

Have you thought about reporting this to the Environmental Hotline? Sounds like it's worth the attention of AEP and maybe DFO.

1-800-222-6514 : AEP 24-hour Environmental Response Line ("for spills, releases, or other emergencies that could damage the environment")

 

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The following link to report from AEP's 2006 Water for Life Bow River Benthic Invertebrate  and Epillthic Algae Monitoring shed some light on sample sites from Cochrane to where it joins the Oldman River. The data was collected in October 2006 and compared to data collected before waste water treatment plant upgrades. Although there was some improvement in water quality as compiled by the data sets, the nutrient enrichment of the river was higher close to Calgary.

I had the opportunity to look at a more recent data set from 2014 and did a limited comparison to the 2006 data. What became evident from the discussion with AEP's  scientific staff was that there is danger in comparison of the monitoring data to establish  a trend in invertebrate population throughout the year. A more detailed study is needed to establish seasonal variations and water flow differences.  

https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/6b2fe6a8-d5bc-494c-adf1-4a60e0ebcf70/resource/4acd9651-70b4-4202-b432-cb3c38d37df1/download/8141.pdf

There is also a need to recognize that year to year variations in invertebrate colonies do take place. I came to the conclusion that a review of the published literature would need to be done before a fishery related Bow River invertebrate monitoring project should take place. Even if the research was conducted, it has little impact on water management policy change since the water quality would more than likely improve over time.

 

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I don't have the experience fishing the Bow like some of you do I've only been on it for maybe 17 years.  That said in the last decade I have drifted from Shouldice Park to below the weir hundreds of times, literally. This season is by far the best since June 2013, both in size and catch rate. 

Please forgive my ignorance as I am not a scientist but I have a few questions;

Isn't this perceived lack of quality fishing what one would expect after such a dramatic flooding situation?

From my understanding we don't have any historical data on trout populations after such a flood, is this correct?

I don't really see anyone discussing biomass, just fish numbers, are we sure we are loosing biomass?

I am not trying to sound arrogant and my experiences are not scientific evidence but they do not mirror those commenting here.  In referencing my own catches, social media and discussions with guys I fish with, there are bundles of huge browns out there, bundles. I caught a brown on Tuesday and it barfed up a 8" brown, it made me think how much these tanks need and eating BWOs must be laborious.  Is there much thought given to the predation by large troots?

By all accounts rainbow numbers are down, so they should be I throw them to my cormorant anytime I catch one. 

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That's encouraging!

I fished after a few floods, 98?, 05, and don't remember a big decrease in fish numbers.

Do you see a bunch of Pelicans and Cormerants up there as well ?

Fishing pressure is considerably lighter up there, I expect that helps ?

We are now 6 years since the 2013 flood, how long should it take to rebound ?

Where is our cleaned water entering into the Bow, right at calf robe bridge?

Would this mean all water up stream has more nutrients ?

Jay I don't mean for you to answer all my questions just putting some thoughts out there.

 

 

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20 minutes ago, eagleflyfisher said:

That's encouraging!

I fished after a few floods, 98?, 05, and don't remember a big decrease in fish numbers.

Do you see a bunch of Pelicans and Cormerants up there as well ?

Fishing pressure is considerably lighter up there, I expect that helps ?

We are now 6 years since the 2013 flood, how long should it take to rebound ?

Where is our cleaned water entering into the Bow, right at calf robe bridge?

Would this mean all water up stream has more nutrients ?

Jay I don't mean for you to answer all my questions just putting some thoughts out there.

 

 

Eagle, I will attempt to answer your questions. Once again I have nothing to base my opinions on but my experience.

To me it is very encouraging, the previous years legitimately gave me sleepless nights.  I basically only fish meat so that cuts out fish that aren't pescatarian, basically never giving me exposure to sub 16-18" troots.  This year on good drift days the amount of fish chasing to the boat has been astounding.... one can only wonder why guides are now running this section. a section they didn't care about or fish until last year.  Fishless days aren't bringing them up there.

I see bundles of Cormorants, I want them dead just on principal. Not many pelicans, Every year there will be 4-8 downstream of Edworthy park, river left in all the reeds. Then I'll see them again down around the Zoo.  The ones just below Edworthy are only there until mid July.

Fishing pressure has been increasing but yes it is considerably light, and that has to help.  There is at least one boat a day there now.  If you fish from shore it's tough, real tough. I think most of the action is seen off the shore.

Yes cleaned water enters the bow above the calf robe. This effluent warms the river in colder months and dramatically increases the nutrient load both benefitting the "Blue Ribbon" section of the Bow

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Curious if the removal of the weir made it easier for them to get and stay up there

 

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The upper reaches of the city section is low in aquatic invertebrates/plants so the fish that live there are more opportunistic, territorial and predacious. Thus the great streamer fishing.

After the 2013 flood, the river lost most of its weeds, which is critical rearing habitat for juvenile fish (including sculpins, dace). Without weed beds to hide in along the edges, the small fish are at a greater risk of predation. Weed beds also slow the pace of the river creating habitat diversity.

The city's flood mitigation strategy of lowering the levels at Ghost reservoir every spring for 5 consecutive years, post-flood, contributed significantly to the delay in Benthic recovery due to the prolonged period of turbidity, which decreased sunlight penetration to the streambed. Less sunlight equals less plant growth. Less plant growth equals less invertebrates and so on. Thankfully, the city has stopped this ecologically harmful flood mitigation strategy.

With the lower invertebrate populations post flood, and fewer places for the smaller fish to hide, they became a primary item on the menu and their survival rates have decreased substantially, as has been noted by many anglers. Thus the great streamer fishing post flood. (And mediocre dry fly fishing compared to pre-flood)

It's important to remember that the recovery from the flood is a slow process of rebuilding the food chain and habitat from the bottom up. The trout populations will only rebound after these conditions improve. From what I have observed, conditions are now improving quickly (invertebrates/plants/ripearean regrowth).

If we want to accelerate the trout recovery, restock the river with lots of baby trout. It was two decades of stocking that gave us the past 50 years of Blue Ribbon Fishing.

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13 hours ago, bcubed said:

Curious if the removal of the weir made it easier for them to get and stay up there

 

I don't believe so, only due to the fact that I have a few buddies that were specifically targeting big browns above the weir starting 30 years ago, those fish have always been there.

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I am relatively new to fishing the Bow and share many of these concerns. Would like to propose a very clear intervention which seems to be working on a similarly pressured trout river in central Oregon and has not been mentioned thus far from what I have read. 

1. Ban fishing from a boat. Use boats as ferries to access walk and wade water. Two feet on the ground at all times while fishing. 

2. Impose a limit on number of boats accessing certain stretches of water during specific times of the year. Boat passes would be sold for a nominal fee and include guides boats, recreational rafts, etc. 

Is there any appetite for this sort of regulation change? What mechanism would you suggest for moving such ideas forward? 

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11 minutes ago, steadyswingin said:

1. Ban fishing from a boat. Use boats as ferries to access walk and wade water. Two feet on the ground at all times while fishing.

AOGAA would never let this get the light of day

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Some interesting comments since I last posted on Wednesday.

First of all, the Bow River from Bearspaw to Carseland has been surveys in 2018 and 2019. Although there are many who just do not believe the science, discussions with AEP biologists show that the data does indicate a continued decline in all sports sports fish populations since 2003. A 40 to 50% drop in Rainbow Trout from 2003 to 2013 (4 to 5% per year). With an additional decline at the same rate Rainbow Trout population could well put the current population at 25 to 30% of 2003 levels. The last two years of data  also shows whitefish and brown trout have also declined. 

  • The most dramatic drop in population is in size class of 15 to 40 cms in length. Recruitment of trout populations appears to be adequate to support a sustainable fish population in the Bow River. This support what many are saying, very few mid sized fish, but an unusually large number of large fish.
  • The reasons for the decline in fish populations is not clear. But the biomass in the river has decreased due to the clean up of wastewater treatment within Calgary and possibly a scouring of the river during flood years.
  • What is also being reported on this website and by others who have taken up fishing the Bow River above Harvie Passage is reasonably good fishing. Unfortunately rock snot makes it difficult to drag a fly across the bottom of the river.
  • In addition trailered boat access is now available at Shouldice and St. Patrick's with West Baker Park also open to trailered boat next spring thanks to the efforts of Calgary River Users Alliance who spearheaded the stakeholder engagement process with the City of Calgary. This will add to the interest to float fish the upper Bow River.
  • The AEP fish population survey data will be made available later this fall as will the creel survey from last year. You can expect to see considerable debate within the fishing community and what I expect to see are changes to the fishing regulations to preserve the Bow River Sports Fishery.
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I guess it's easier to blame and regulate anglers then it is to take action.

Let's just hope another flood of the century doesn't happen any time soon or another Sapro outbreak that comes along and finishes off whats left of our meager fishery, for good. Maybe then, in hindsight, a re-stocking strategy to replace the current low populations of juvenile trout will have seemed like a pretty dam good idea.

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2 hours ago, eagleflyfisher said:

 Why is a restocking a "bad" idea ?

 

Historically stocking has been attempted across the west with mixed results. My personal experience with stocked fisheries is from the salmon rivers of the west coast where stocked fish were thought of as inferior to wild stocks. 

The other issue with stocking is it can be perceived as a band-aid solution. As long as money is at hand it is conceivable, but when the funding runs out and the fish flow stops the decline of trout populations typically has not been dealt with and your fishery is no further recovered. 

That said IF anglers are the issue stocking is a solution, if something else is causing the decline and not uncovered; then stocking is flushing cash down the drain that could be used to address said issue.

It is a complicated issue indeed.

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Hi all,

Won't get into the scientific and provincial/government side of things. 

I started fly fishing on the mighty Bow in 2012, so yes I'm a noobie. I remember flailing and falling around, 'throwing' my oversized gear out there... still caught fish.

After said Flood, and into the middle 20teens, even when I didn't understand flow estimates and how much damage had actually been done to the sediment/channels/backwaters...had some really great years in there...still caught fish.

2019..I cannot remember the last time I caught a trout, let alone any whitefish (maybe June) ...not catching fish.

In my NW neck of the woods, there are numerous construction projects that are altering flow (Stoney Trail bridge something-or-other, Edworthy Park upstream drainage project and Shagannappi Pumphouse to name a few), so there's noise, sediment and poaching (oh my!!) that have hurt the smaller populations up here...

Overall, yes this has been the worst fishing season to date for me. Rise in Pike and introduced species?...maybe. Poaching?...I've seen a lot (LOT) of evidence up here, literally across the river from AFW Headquarters~! Grin Pictures during 30ºC days?...maybe. Maybe I'm just a sh***y angler! :D 

I want to say 'ride it out'...but I'm a skeptical sort. Good friend in Montana said he just had one of his best years, all wading. Hmmm.

-M. 

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AEP has now completed 2 years of Bow River Fish Population Surveys that appear to confirm the previous U of C publication that the rainbow trout populations continues to drop by up to 5% annually. If this is true, The trout population in the lower Bow River below the Bonnybrook Waste Water Treatment Plant could be 25 to 30% of what they were in 2003. The Brown Trout and White Fish population have also followed the same trend. If the Bow River supported a West Slope Cutthroat Trout population the province and the feds would  have taken affirmative action to protect the fishery. But since both rainbow and brown trout are non-native fish, this is unlikely to happen.

We are left with a once "World Class Blue Ribbon Fishery" that at best can probably sustain itself with less fishing pressure. Here is my take on what can and can't be done:

  • Although discussions with TransAlta in 2018 did highlight a need for flow stability and I believe that has now been accomplished within their operational proceedures, the fishing community has little influence on AEP's flood mitigation protocols to protect the City of Calgary against flooding.
  • The proposed new dams on the Bow River either at the Glenbow Ranch, Ghost or the Morley Reserve could be a game changer for the fishery. Although a long way off - 10 to 15 years, now is the time to advocacy to at least consider the recreational fishery.
  • Invertebrate life cycles will evolve on the lower Bow River in the presence of the cleaner discharge from Calgary's wastewater treatment plants. We have seen more stone flies and fewer caddis flies  in recent years. Changes will continue from year to year and the fish will most likely change their feeding habits to survive. This will certainly change fishing techniques on a seasonal basis. The days of almost continued dry fly fishing are almost gone.
  • If Whirling Disease in one of the culprits for the decline in Rainbow Trout and White Fish in the Bow River, little can be done to reverse the impact. If Montana is any example trout populations have rebounded or stabilized with the presence of WD. The same will probably take place in the Bow River.
  • Fishing pressure and the regulations that allow it to increase could well be the only management tools available to protect and enhance a depleted fishery. 

So what is the fishing community prepared to accept in regulations to not only enjoy the river we have at present but the fishery for future generations.

It will be very important for all organizations that represent various fishing and habitat conservation activities to unite and advocate for change in fishery and water management. Now is the time to do that. 

 

 

 

 

 

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