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Stream Tender Magazine

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             Introduction:

Where the impacts of human activity have either directly or indirectly effected the natural state of fish bearing streams, mitigation or remedial measures may be required to compensate for those negative impacts. Methodology designed to repair or enhance both riparian and fish habitat has been used to facilitate the recovery of many streams in recent years. The technology used is still being developed, especially in the area of bio-engineering plants for the enhancement of riparian zones. It is of major importance that any in-stream structures emulate the appearance of a natural stream habitat. This is achieved by the use of natural materials such as boulders, timber and living plants. The used of these materials adds a special challenge to the engineering and construction of structures that will stand up to the influences of high flow events, winter ice and frost conditions. Also important, is the necessity of having all of the necessary permits and permissions from government agencies that are responsible for managing our flowing water ways. In some cases this can be a lengthy process, but it is required by law and common sense. Riparian and fish habitat enhancement programs are not only beneficial to maintaining our streams, but they also arouse interest from the general public and help educate people of all ages about the importance of our flowing waters and how we all can protect them!

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Getting Close to Xmas and the New Year

This morning, while plucking my computer keys, I checked the date to confirm the day and thought it is now getting close to Xmas and the New Year. Wow, how time flies these days! Only a few more weeks till the “Big Day”. More time to do some writing these days. Maybe tie a few trout flies to keep up the interest.

Time to send out a few Xmas cards to friends, project volunteers and contacts. Also, for those that read the Stream Tender Media. I took the photo of this Mule deer buck, along Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. It was nice to see such a majestic animal so close to my home.

There is a lot to think about in the remaining days of 2017 and I am also very excited about our upcoming 2018 riparian planting program. Anxious to get to work on collection cuttings for growth and spending more time outdoors. The snow that we had in early November helped freeze in the plantings, when a Chinook melted the snow and then froze the water in the ground during the night. This will help keep the plants in good condition for the spring thaw and growing season.

Yesterday, I received an email from a young local fly fisher that has been fishing the warmer fall days this month, on the local Bow River, here in Cochrane. He was saddened by the lack of both trout and whitefish in the river. In my response to his email I mentioned that the combination of whirling disease and the ditty moss outbreak on the Bow is probably the reason for the terrible fly fishing.

This dilemma in our local sport fishery is even more reason to be doing something to help preserve and enhance what is left of it. This is my own personal motivation and I am hoping the same is true for other fly fisher’s that are effected by the poor quality of their fly fishing sport these days. I hold a lot of faith in the new generation of fly fisher’s that are starting to visit our local streams.

 

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December Ice Locks in Native Willow and Tree Plants

Along The Streams

The ice came early this late fall, to our local small streams. One thing that did stand out this fall was that there was not as much anchor ice as there usually is on Bighill Creek. I hope that this will result in a higher hatch of trout eggs from this fall’s brook trout and brown trout spawning that occurred on the Bighill. I am not sure about the effects of anchor ice on trout eggs, but I suspect that the ice does prevent good oxygenated flow from circulating over the trout eggs.

After our first cold snap, in the first week of November, there have been Chinook breaks that have kept areas of Bighill Creek ice free up until December 1st. The water levels in the creek are good, both volume wise and in clarity. I expect a good hatch of trout eggs next spring. There are also some beaver dams at key locations along the lower end of the creek, which will provide good wintering habitats for resident trout populations.

Native willow and tree plants from previous planting seasons are taking hold on many previously barren stream banks. The winter ice always locks the plants into the channel ice around this time of the years, which is great for preservation thru the winter months and helps in getting an early start on the growing season next spring. This icy cover also keeps many animals from browsing off the vital new growth and buds on the young plants.

These willow plants will soon be half covered in stream channel ice. The ice floods and freezes continuously over the winter months, elevating it up the stream banks. On small streams, there is limited movement of the ice during the winter, so the ice does not harm the willow and tree plants. The ice will actually contribute to protecting the plants during the winter months. Next spring the willows will have an early start into the growing season, with plenty of moisture from the melting ice along the stream channel.

2018 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

In The Works!

The riparian planting program for the 2018 season is in the works and partnerships will be organized and ready to go by March of late winter. The target for the 2018 project year is 10,000 native willow and tree plants. We did 9,070 in 2017, which was close, but not quite in the ten thousand mark, which has been surpassed for a number of years before 2017. However, there are no complaints and in my opinion we still have great momentum.

There are a number of other plantings that take place along Nose Creek and West Nose Creek every year, as part of the overall riparian recovery on these streams, carried out by the City of Airdrie and Calgary. So combining our efforts with theirs makes for a substantial riparian planting program. I am confident that this will continue until we see some very positive transformations in the stream’s ecosystem. This will also include the fisheries on these same streams.

December Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

The December issue of Stream Tender Magazine is now uploaded and ready for review. The link is in the index at the top of the page or the home page on this site. Please check it out when you have time.

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Spawning Numbers Down on Bighill Creek

Low Summer Flows May Have Been The Reason

During the hot and dry summer months the Bighill Creek ran low this year. The lack of rain kept the stream trout populations left with little habitat to retreat to, during limited volumes of flow in the creek. These conditions can cause stress for the local trout populations and may have been the reason why the spawning numbers were down this fall.

What ever the reason, the numbers of brook trout and brown trout spawning in the main-stem of Bighill Creek this fall were down considerably. Ranch House Spring Creek suffered a fall in spawning trout redds from over 40 last year, down to 7 this fall. The upper spring creek brook trout redds were also down by half from last year. Fortunately, Millennium Creek sustained a reasonable number of fall spawning brook trout, which will insure a fairly good recruitment year this next spring.

With the low flows in the Bighill Creek, beaver dam building was up from previous years. The new dams along the creek will help provide refuge for trout in the deeper water’s of the dam, during these low flow conditions. Even a depth of over one metre can make a big difference in the water temperature on small creeks like the Bighill. The numerous beaver dams may have prevented some trout from reaching their key spawning habitats this fall. Fortunately, with the high numbers of trout hatching in the system this past year, recruitment of new trout into the system will be good for the next few years.

            This video shows some spawning on the Bighill Creek system this fall.

Millennium Creek Still the Most Reliable Spawning Tributary

At first, I thought that the numbers of spawning brook trout on Millennium Creek this fall would be down. The reason for this was that there were a number of beaver dams on the lower reach of the Bighill Creek this fall and I thought that they would prevent the normal run of spawning brook trout from entering the Millennium Creek. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the total number of brook trout redds (egg nests) that I mapped this fall.

 

The total number of 28 brook trout redds was just down slightly from last year’s total redd count on Millennium Creek. This year’s total would be on the higher end of the mean average for the creek so far. Which is great for a small spawning tributary like Millennium Creek.

 

Brown Trout Spawning Was Down This Fall

Something that really has me concerned, is the drop in the number of mature brown trout on the Bighill Creek. This year’s numbers of spawning brown trout pairs were down considerably. This is not good news for the population, which is very limited in sized on this small stream. I am still pretty worried about the new fishing regulation changed on the Bighill Creek, which allows the harvest of two trout, including larger fish. In my opinion, this creek cannot sustain such a harvest on our brown trout populations.

Left: This spawning brown trout was holding over a redd when I took its photo this fall. Large mature brown trout like this one are necessary to sustain a viable population in the Bighill Creek. Without them, the population could crash and cause long term damage to the sport fishery in the creek. The large brown trout also keep the brook trout numbers in the creek in balance. Large brown trout will feed on juvenile brook trout.

 

 

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2017 Riparian Planting Program Complete

2017 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

This past Saturday, the 2017 riparian planting program was completed for this year. The final planting was made on West Nose Creek, Calgary, when a small group of volunteers planted the final 740 native willow plants along the creek. Just previous to the Saturday planting, during the second week of October, 600 native plants were planted along Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. The Saturday planting was part of a Evergreen/HSBC – “Uncover Your Creeks” program planting. Regardless of the cold morning weather, we all had a great time on the stream.

It was a great year of planting, with a total of 9,070 native willows and trees planted along the stream banks of three area streams. Those streams are Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek. The program was carried out in the City of Calgary, the City of Airdrie and the Town of Cochrane.

Bow Valley Habitat Development has already started work on the upcoming 2018 program. The 2018 season will be the fifth year of the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program.

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Hot, Dry Summer – Hard on Willows and Trees

The Dry Spell is Over – Hopefully

This has been a long hot and dry summer, which has been hard on both our willows and trees that we have planting in recent years. Fortunately, yesterday evening, our first rains have come and today there will be more of the same. It is September 13th today and I can’t remember when we got our last sprinkle, but it was some time ago.

The native willows and trees from previous riparian plantings are starting to turn color and some are showing dead leaves on the terminal ends. However, the plants are established enough to tolerate this past drought. They are planted close enough to the water’s edge that the stream has kept them alive.

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Above: These willows that were planted on an eroding stream bank on the Bighill Creek are showing signs of the drought on their terminal ends. However, they will survive, especially with the rain yesterday and today. The photo was taken last week.

Bow Valley Habitat Development has two more fall plantings planned for mid-October, so any moisture from either rain or snow will help prep the ground for those plantings. A good drenching this week should stay in the ground longer, with the cooler fall weather. Any previously planned plantings are dependent on some luck from our fall moisture prior to the events. Once a date has been picked in advance, we always stick with it. If all goes our way, we will have the fall crop in the ground and dormant for the winter months.

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Primer For Willow Planting Event on West Nose Creek

The Fall 2017 Planting Event

Bow Valley Habitat Development has partnered up with Evergreen Canada and HSBC to complete a fall riparian planting event on West Nose Creek. The planting will take place on Saturday, October 14th, starting at 9:00 AM. The planting is part of the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program and Evergreen’s “Uncover Your Creeks Program”. If you live in or near Calgary, Alberta, and you would like to participate, please email me at: info@streamtender.com for maps and details. Below is a primer to familiarize you with the methodology used in this planting event.

How the Planting is Carried out

The system of riparian planting that will be used for the October planting event is called push planting. It involves the careful handling and planting of willow and tree cuttings that have been grown until there is both root and top development. The cuttings are handled below the transition spot between the top growth and the root systems, when they are removed from the bundles. Then, handling only the area where the roots are developed, you push the cutting into the soft ground along the water’s edge.

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The plants are carefully removed from the bundles and placed in planting bags. Handling the cuttings below the top growth. Avoid touching the leaves and branches at the top of the cutting.

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Grasping the cutting on the rooted area will not hurt the plant. The root systems are already started and they will continue to grow if they are sheared off when pushed into the soft – moist ground, along the water’s edge.

The soil is tamped around the stalk of the cutting after it is pushed into the ground. You can use your hands and then finish off with your feet, to tamp the soil. The planting goes really fast using this method.

 

The event will include an educational talk on why the program is being done and the long term benefits to the stream’s riparian eco-system. This event should be good fun and I hope that you will join us if you are interested. Kids over the age of 8 years old can participate in this planting, but they need to be closely supervised by parents. I will be capping the attendance at 100 volunteers, so please contact me ASAP to insure a spot on the team.

The September issue of “Stream Tender Magazine” is now available to view. There is a link on the cover page and in the top index.

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August 2017 – Riparian Planting Report

Great Growing Season Along the Creeks

This past week I visited a few planting sites on both Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek to see how the plants from previous riparian plantings were doing in the dry weather. It has been a dry summer, but getting the rain at the right time this spring made all the difference in survival for this year’s planting program.

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The native willows and trees from this year’s planting and from a few previous years are growing great. During the hot summer days the nights are generally cool enough that there is a good coating of morning dew on the grass and willows along the stream’s edge. This moisture helps maintain a damp soil at ground level and this sustains growth. The plants that we planted are also in the capillary fringe, so wet soil from the water in the creeks keeps them growing during the dry weather.

The forecast is for some rain in the next few days, so as always, I hope that it comes at this time of the month. If so, the willows and trees should make it thru our drought, in good shape for the fall. I will keep you posted.

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – July 2017 Update

Great Growing Season – So Far.

Here it is, mid-July has past and the growing season draws to an end. The good news is that our crop of native willows and trees are in great shape at this point in time. We have received rain at the right time to keep the plants growing fast this season. Throughout the spring and summer, I have visited the planting sites from this year’s program on West Nose, Nose and Bighill Creeks and they are all doing well.

During the spring planting program, a total of just over 7,800 plants were put in the ground along the stream banks of all three streams in the program. There are more plants yet to be planted this year, in the fall program, so we will definitely break the 8,000 mark by the time the first snow flies. Another great year and it is not over yet. The key to great survival by the first frost, will be dependent on enough rain thru the later part of the summer months, during the typical dry period.

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Left Photo: This sandbar willow was planted along West Nose Creek, in Calgary, in the first week of May and the photo to the left was taken mid-July this year. Sandbar willow is an ideal plant for developing dense roots and spreading out along the stream bank. It forms a clonal colony from its network of roots. The willow plant is also well equipped to handle heavy beaver grazing, once it has established a thicket. The plant is a good nitrogen fixer and it will help enrich the soil along the creeks.

Great growth rates during the growing season, for our willow and tree crop, will help insure a better survival rate come next spring. The majority of spring planting was completed by the end of May this year, so the plants definitely had a head start to the growing season. When they were planted, the plants already had both root and top development; this was the key to advanced growth this spring.

Great Rainbow Trout Hatch on the JP Creek in 2016

This July, thousands of juvenile rainbow trout were observed on the Bow River, in the Town of Cochrane. The small trout were present as a result of a successful spawn and hatch during the 2016 spring spawning season on Jumpingpound Creek.

I first spotted rising juvenile trout in the Bow River, in the first week of July, while doing an early morning walk down to the river. In order to confirm that they were rainbow trout, I decided to conduct an angling survey a few days later. I would need to use a small trout fly pattern to catch such tiny trout, but this is something that I have done before and it is actually good fun.

After countless numbers of small trout hitting my fly pattern and some briefly being hooked, I did manage to hook a number of juvenile rainbow trout and some brown trout while conducting my angling survey. This was great news to report when I had landed and identified both juvenile trout species, while fly fishing the river. It not only confirmed a successful spawn and hatch of rainbow trout in 2016, but I was also able to confirm successful reproduction of brown trout as well. Good news for the future of the fishery.DSCF1691 cropped

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Left Photo: This small rainbow trout was from the 2016 spawning event on the Jumpingpound Creek. There were hundreds of them in the reach of the Bow River that I was fishing in early July this year. It has been a few years since the last successful rainbow trout hatch on the JP Creek, so seeing a new generation present, is great.DSCF1693 cropped


Right Photo: This is a Juvenile brown trout
DSCF1693 cropped is from either the Bighill Creek spawning or a known spawning habitat in the our reach of the Bow River. It is about time I had some good news to report about our reach of the Bow River’s fishery. Especially after the reported whirling disease outbreak in the Bow River, this past year. None of the trout showed signs of the disease.

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2017 June Riparian Planting Update

Native Plants are Growing Fast

This year, we have experienced great growing conditions in our area. The ground along the stream banks has maintained good moisture since our first plantings in early May this spring. If we don’t get any significant floods on the local streams, the riparian plantings on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek should fair well. The lush growth along the streams has also distracted rodent populations from focusing on our new native willows and trees thus far.

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Left: This willow plant was planted in the first week of May this spring. The photo was taken in the third week of June, so you can see the plants are doing well this early in the season. Good growth by the fall will help insure high survival rates for the entire crop of native willows and trees.

The plant in the photo is one of many planted on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. Over 4,000 plants will be planted on this stream in 2017, so it is another great year.                                                                                           

In total, there will be over 8,000 native willows and trees planted this season. The distance of stream bank planted will be approximately over 7 kilometres on all three streams in the program. The riparian plantings are part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. The program is an ongoing riparian recovery project carried out by Bow Valley Habitat Development and its many partners.

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Spring Riparian Planting Program Complete

June 8th, ATCO Planting on West Nose Creek

On June 8th, of this spring, the final spring riparian planting was completed on West Nose Creek in the City of Calgary. A total of 12 volunteers from ATCO planted 500 native willow plants along the stream banks of West Nose in a matter of a few hours of volunteer time. 400 plants were provided by ATCO and another 100 by Bow Valley Habitat Development for the event.

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left: Volunteers from ATCO pose behind the 500 native willow plants at the start of the June 8th planting event on West Nose Creek. It only took a few hours of hard work to plant the native crop into a soft – moist soil along the edge of the stream. This is the fifth year that ATCO has participated in the riparian recovery program.

ATCO got involved with the riparian recovery program that Bow Valley Habitat Development organized, back in 2013, when they completed their first planting on Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. They have always provided a great planting team of volunteers for our riparian recovery program and it is my hope that this will continue into the future.

The planting was part of the ATCO “Day of Caring” annual event. The planting was also part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. Bow Valley Habitat Development has more planting planned for the fall of 2017. So far this year, we have planted a total of 7,730 native willow and tree plants on Bighill Creek, Nose Creek and West Nose Creek.

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