Back in the late 1980’s, a project idea turned into a reality. I am talking about my first major project on the Jumpingpound Creek. The project was titled the “Jumpingpound Creek Resting Pool Habitat Project”. Fortunately for me, the regional reach biologist Bill Griffiths, got me started in the field of “Fish Habitat Enhancement”. The JP project involved the creation of resting pool habitat for spawning rainbow trout. Over a rather long stretch of the JP Creek, the channel is wide and had no pool or deep run habitat for rainbow trout moving upstream in the spring, to spawn.
Alberta Environment’s river engineer, Sheldon Lowe, was completing the design and I would take care of the rest. I worked with Sheldon for years after this first project on the Jumpingpound Creek. I Also attended a training workshop that Sheldon organized. A few years later, Sheldon published his “Fish Habitat – Typical Structures”.
The title of the project may be the JP resting pool habitat project, but let me explain this further. In the spring of the year on the JP Creek, rainbow trout are moving up the system to spawn. Over a dry period of years, the flow levels in the creek were very low and there were a number of beaver dams preventing trout from completing their migration. When the trout do move thru this long shallow stretch of the creek, during low flow, they are very vulnerable to predation. By creating some pool habitats, the trout will have a place to escape to, or rest. Thus the name “Resting Pools”.
Time past since the project was completed, and years later the Jumpingpound Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited were conducting a willow planting program on the creek, in the area of the resting pools. At one of the resting pools, the group stopped to watch trout feeding on the surface, at one of the resting pools. Suddenly, someone made an inspirational comment about feeding the trout with grasshoppers. Also suddenly, there was a race to catch a live grasshopper to feed to the trout.
TU Chapter member Ed Johnson was the big winner, with a rather small greenish color grasshopper. Ed also happened to have hip waders on, so out he carefully walked, trying not to make too much noice. As he waded the shallow, fast moving flow, a small trout continued to feed on something in the surface film, at the tail end of the pool. If Ed placed the live grasshopper at the right spot in the flow, upstream, it would drift floating over the hungry trout.
There were multiple currents flowing upstream of the trout, and approximately 7 metres from where Ed dropped the bug. Ed was an experience fly fisher, like many of the members at that time, so he was pretty good at reading water. On Ed’s first try, a small trout nailed the drifting hopper, “like a hammer hits a nail”. The drift was perfect!
We feed the trout a few more hoppers before the fish stopped taking the hoppers. Maybe the small trout thought that something fishy was going on.
Our break was over, so we went back to planting willows.
The Jumpingpound Chapter of Trout Unlimited
The Jumpingpound Chapter of Trout Unlimited was a great local chapter and club to be involved in. When I first joined in 1992, both “Bow Valley Habitat Development” and the “JP chapter”, as we called it back then, had partnered up on project near the confluence with the Bow River, a year later we operated the fish fence and trap. The 1993 trapping program was a partnership with DA Westworth and Associates. It involved a study of spawning rainbow trout. More or less, the study was a necessary move, to prove that rainbow trout were using the JP Creek as a spawning tributary to the Bow River system.
Back then, Darrell Downs was the president of the chapter and most likely got the ball rolling to form the chapter organization. In any case, we got a lot done, surprisingly as a rather small chapter, in its first years.
The work that the JP Chapter did back in those days, brought change. Some of the change for the better involved new regulation changes, some took years to implement, but our study work played a major role in getting protection for the JP strain of rainbow trout, which the majority of the newly hatched trout ended up in the Bow River. During spring floods, many of the JP trout ended up getting flushed down into the lower Bow River. However, the JP strain has dwindled away and only a few are caught every year.
Whirling disease and Diddy Moss may have been the main culpert in the reduced numbers of rainbow trout, on our reach of the Bow River, but fishing reports indicate that the population drop happened over many years.