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fishteck

The Unseen Impacts of Catch and Release Fishing

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This article for Bozeman Outdoors Magazine, published in the Spring of 2016 is well worth a read. The article is well referenced and gives a good insight into current understandings of fishing pressures and the impact on fish survival in Montana.

Considering what we are experiencing with the Bow River depleted trout populations, this articles has a similar message that is applicable to Alberta trout fisheries. 

 

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OUTSIDEBOZEMAN.COM
 
The unseen impacts of catch-and-release.
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Good points in that read.

Angler education will be a benefit in helping to restore rivers.

A little over stated but fished to death comes to mind for our Bow.

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Thanks for posting..It does present an issue.That i have had ,for years.That being ice fishing,at a C&R lake.The fish,generally is caught.Dragged up onto the ice.Pictures taken[guessing].Then kicked down the hole.The article speaks to handling  & the loss of the protective slime.Well i am only surmising that the cold exposure,would definitely effect that slime.Being that it might very well be frozen.Gone is the gentle release,allowing for the fish to recoup.Just dropped into the hole. Shame to see this happening & not just on our trout lakes.What about Walleye,Pike etc.

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I get a real kick outta these type of articles. Rather than deal with the much larger issues, these articles go back to blaming the angler.When are Anglers going to get their head around the big items.

- habitat loss - silt, dams, roads, cows etc.

-invasive  species like carp

- disease - WD and the like.

All of the above are the result of our actions.  Mind you, none of them buy a license.

Don

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Don Anderson: One of the references in the article is well worth a read:

Arlinghaus et al,. Understanding the complexity of catch and release in recreational fishing.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DOGMb7a5XFcWqO1RYY3LnfSOYFqD3XZ9/view?usp=sharing

It is the most exhaustive and detailed article I have ever read on C&R. 

Unfortunately AEP fishery biologists have little impact on the remediation of habitat loss as a bigger picture initiative.

Invasive species, carp, brook trout (?), rainbow trout (?), brown trout (?) where does it stop. If the goal is protect only endangered native fish species, our recreational trout fishery is doomed!

Whirling Disease is here to stay and time will tell just what long term impact it will have on the Alberta fishery.

So what is left?

The following link document review by University of Calgary researcher, John Post for 2002 give a depressing account of the Alberta fishery at that time. The analysis is still true today. We need to accept the reality that the Alberta sports fishery is unsustainable without further angling restrictions. At least this is my take.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SI06BuozDPMsC-RpFWkYk4dKtYJW6bb2/view?usp=s

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Fishtech, 

I read this report years ago. It was about retention fishing. 
killing ‘em and they are gone. What a concept.

Don

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Don:

There is no one answer to the declining trout populations. Sure habitat enhancement, water management, prevention of invasive species and advancement in control of whirling disease are all needed. Although I question just how much benefit can be derived from these initiatives in the short-term.  But without a reduction of fishing pressure to maintain a sustainable fish population the Alberta trout population and our cherished sports fishery will be a thing of the past. And most importantly, with selective fishing regulation change an immediate positive impact on fish survival is possible.

I have added a link to the two documents reviews I posted earlier

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There are indeed obvious answers and solutions to the causality of the decline in trout populations, as Don has pointed out. It's just that governments and industry would rather blame c&r anglers. One solution that I've mentioned recently is restocking the Bow. When reproduction rates fall dramatically, as they have in recent years, it is most often an obvious sign of an impending collapse of the fisheries. We can regulate c&r till the cows go home. It will have very little impact.

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I would think that the powers that be should be seriously considering enhancing/stocking the Bow. Why not have a hatchery built right in/on the river itself? this could be funded through conservation stamps, guide licensing/fees. The Bow isn't being fished to death and the c&r anglers are not the problem.

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Toolman:

This has nothing to do with blame, but the reality that C&R practices are not the salvation to the  survival  of a threatened fishery such as the Bow River. Especially when fish are getting caught numerous times in a season. It is my understanding that the Bow River trout population recruitment is adequate to support a sustainable trout population, but the kill off of all classes of fish is high.

Therefore restocking the river will be a waste of time unless ways are found to stop the kill-off of juvenile fish.

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In a few years the larger trout will be gone and with dramatically reduced numbers of 1-3 year old fish currently in the river, there is a high risk of a complete collapse of fish stocks. It could take decades for the system to recover naturally, if ever. There are countless examples, historically, where this has occurred. Restocking has no ecological downside in my opinion and there have been many successful restocking programs. The Bow has been one of those success stories.

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Toolman:

With the exception of the large trout the Bow River is on the verge of a total collapse now. It is probably true for all east slopes zones as well. The Bow River under current  management policies is unable to support a larger fish population. But changes in fishery management can stop what you have suggested is a complete collapse of the Bow River fishery. Its taken 15 years for the trout population to drop by probably more than 60 -70% and with  agreement by all stakeholders and  government agencies it will at least be maintained at the current fish population levels and hopefully increase to some degree. 

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I hope you're right, but the data suggests that the Bow may be at a critical tipping point where things could abruptly go down hill very quickly. From my personal observations, I've never seen the river with so few juvenile trout.

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The other decline is food base. Invertbrates such as Stone Flies, Mayflies and Caddis numbers have dropped. We are no longer seeing the super hatches as in past years. You flip stones and notice the decline.

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3 hours ago, SilverDoctor said:

The other decline is food base. Invertbrates such as Stone Flies, Mayflies and Caddis numbers have dropped. We are no longer seeing the super hatches as in past years. You flip stones and notice the decline.

I'll mention again all the road salt that the city of Calgary started liberally laying down on icey roads all over the city  for the last 5 winter's, for year's it was pea gravel but now it's a mix called pickile, road salt/pea gravel, when the snow and ice melt, the melt water with all of the salt goes into storm drains that run directly untreated into the river, the cities storm drains smell like the ocean in the spring.

 

The asphalt roads in this city are burnt by the salt, they use to be black, now they are white and grey from all the salt.

If the roads are burnt imagine all of the creatures that used to live in the water...it seems obvious,  fresh water fish don't do well in salt water...I imagine the same is true for fresh water invertebrates.

 

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On 11/16/2019 at 8:44 AM, fishteck said:

Don:

There is no one answer to the declining trout populations. Sure habitat enhancement, water management, prevention of invasive species and advancement in control of whirling disease are all needed. Although I question just how much benefit can be derived from these initiatives in the short-term.  But without a reduction of fishing pressure to maintain a sustainable fish population the Alberta trout population and our cherished sports fishery will be a thing of the past. And most importantly, with selective fishing regulation change an immediate positive impact on fish survival is possible.

I have added a link to the two documents reviews I posted earlier

The declining fish population is an action that already is past. We haven't stopped  WD and recruitment is shabby, we are losing bugs all over as evidenced by a 50% reduction in aviary insect feeders. 
we haven’t done anything but increase destruction of the landscape.

And your trying to convince me C&R is the issue.  really?

Don

 

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Perhaps a season closure from November to June with additional sectional closures in the spring and fall to protect the spawners  ie....  upstream of Police for the Browns around the Highwood mouth in the spring, barb-less single hooks and maybe a little less of the grip and grin facebook mentality........ oh I was just daydreaming again

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Okay so what's it going to take ?

You may have a smaller stream that has less urban impact. Easier to identify and try to regulate the obvious destructive forces ?Could be logging, gravel pits, ag.

Smaller streams already have fishing seasons ( closures) for a reason.

They have a small group of very concerned anglers fighting for the health of the systems.

Looking at the Bow specifically, huge city, constant construction, river re tooled to suite our needs. What is it going to take ?

When we have excavation to build bridges, construction.

Rip rap walls to keep banks together.

Fluctuating water levels

Unchecked pollution entering water system, sewers, chemicals,road salt etc..

What habitat enhancement would be the most beneficial to help fish be happy, spawn, grow, thrive ?? 

 

 

 

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EagleFlyFisher - good question. The following is a list of options put together two years ago when it became evident changes in the Bow River fishery  management was needed.

I've added my comments from what I have discussed with many of the stakeholders in the fishery.

Bow River Trout Population Decline

•      An ever-increasing number of anglers - FT - this is a reality and can be changed by revised fishing regulations

•      Limited regulation enforcement. FT - This will not change to any great extent. 

•      Little to no commitment to river access additions and improvements. FT - new river access sites will spread out the fishing pressure

•      Where do trout spawn – has this changed over the past 20 years. FT - ongoing Brown Trout spawning monitoring, but little done on rainbow trout. The AEP Bow River Fish Population Survey suggests that recruitment of trout stocks is adequate in the Bow River to sustain the population

•      Unknown fish population and reproduction dynamics - FT expensive!

•      Fish population survey locations do not represent the Bow River stretch from Calgary to Carsland. FT - This changed in the 2018/19 surveys. AEP has a better understanding of the population variations across the entire river

•      Improvement in water quality and the impact on trout feed supply. FT - Although we would like to see an improvement, it is very unlikely since the basis of invertebrate populations is based on the Calgary Waste Water Treatment Plant discharge into the river that has seen improvements in quality in recent years.

•      Enhancement of fish habitat. FT - All very achievable on a limited basis. For example, Calgary's fish habitat enhancement projects at Quarry Park, Bowmount Park and the Elbow River downstream of the Glenmore Dam. But in the bigger picture, expensive and little impact with the size of the Bow River.

•      Impact of climate change FT Unknown and probably unmanageable!

•      Bow River Water Supply Management Plan – flood and drought control models. Up stream dams. FT - This subject has been debated for years. And until the threat of flooding to the City of Calgary is reduced significantly we will see little change in the water management policy. Some improvements have been achieved in 2018/19. But there are positives with the increase flows during the spring runoff - the gravel bars will be flushed off.

•      AEP commitment to management of a recreational sports fishery. FT - an ongoing problem, but improving!

•      Logging influence on the fishery – Highwood River Basin and others. FT - Environmental assessments and advocacy is key here. But unfortunately fishing interests were late to the table.

•      Changing hydrology of the river – floods, flood mitigation FT - AEP has proposals for new dams on the river in 10 -15 years. Debate will continue as to the viability of new infrastructures. Hydro peaking at Ghost will become a focal point in discussions.

•      Seasonal closures – short-term pain for long term gain. FT - One of the few options available to fishery managers and in my opinion very likely.

•      Fishing regulation change – triple hooks FT - One of the few options available to fishery managers and in my opinion unlikely  without the support of all angler groups..

•      Management of all water craft use. FT - Unlikely

 

So what realistic options are available in the SHORT-TERM to stop the decline. Regulation Changes! With a 50% drop in trout population from 2003 to 2013 and AEP indicating that declines in fish populations continue, probably down to 30% from historical levels, its time to use all possible measures to  make a change.  SHORT-TERM PAIN FOR LONG-TERM GAIN.

 

 

 

 

 

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An ever-increasing number of anglers – Not sure this is true.  I couldn’t find older data, but the total number of licenses sold in AB seem to be trending the same way as the resource economy in the province and have gone from 280425 in 2014, 318106 in 2015, 312064 in 2016, 309006 in 2017 to 281568 in 2018.  I would agree that these numbers don’t necessarily give an accurate measure of how many anglers use the Bow.

 

The AEP Bow River Fish Population Survey suggests that recruitment of trout stocks is adequate in the Bow River to sustain the population – Fair enough, but this doesn’t reflect the experience of myself and other anglers who have noticed a distinct lack of smaller fish in the river in recent years.  It also ties in with the next point;

 

Unknown fish population and reproduction dynamics – Don’t mean to nitpick, but if the fish population and reproduction dynamics are unknown then how can the AEP  Bow River Fish Population Survey suggest that recruitment of trout stocks is adequate in the Bow River to sustain the population?  Seems like a chicken/egg debate?

 

What I would like to know is how closely does the decline of the Bow River’s trout populations resemble the decline of other well known trout rivers in the US that have been exposed to the parasite that causes whirling disease?  I doubt the data exists to make a real comparison, but anecdotally it seems all too similar. 

My $0.02

  1. Charge a conservation fee/stamp/license to fish the Bow, say $50 a year.  Double that for alien/non-resident anglers just for giggles.  Put the money directly back in to managing and enhancing the Bow River fishery so that the powers that be can obtain meaningful data and develop targeted solutions.

  2. Some rough data can be obtained just from the license sales, but with this stamp/fee/license include a link to a website (or a paper form, for the technologically challenged) that can be used to voluntarily report how many anglers are using the river, when, where and what the results were with idea of using this data in future management.

  3. As part of the management plan start stocking a strain of Rainbows in the Bow that are naturally resistant to the parasite that causes whirling disease (e.g. Hofer X Harrison strain rainbows) with the goal of augmenting natural recruitment until populations stabilize.  The rainbow trout in the Bow were originally from a river in northern California, so maintaining the genetics of the existing stock are kind of a moot point, and the cutties aren’t likely to make a comeback below the Ghost anyway.  Colorado hatcheries are raising these rainbows, so obtaining brood stock may be possible without having to reinvent the wheel. 

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Before we start advocating for hatcheries, feel free to watch this... hatcheries are a sure way for one thing: to keep using hatcheries.

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That looks interesting bcubed and I’ll try and to watch it tonight, but I’ll take a stab at where it’s going - the offspring of hatchery raised fish are less reproductively fit than their wild counterparts?  True, but very little research has been done on the reproductive fitness of subsequent generations.  Again, Bow River rainbows originally come from Northern California, but have naturalized and formed (until recently) a self sustaining population, so it would seem possible to wean off the hatchery teat.  The only reason I suggest adding hatchery fish to the mix (with some different genetics) is to try and get more adult fish to the redds and to have more of their offspring make it to adulthood to eventually do the same. 

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