Sweeping Bow River Regulation Changes Have Local Impacts

As of 2017, the entire Bow River sport fishery is open all year with a zero harvest limit. This should make a lot of fly fishers very happy, but there are certain consequences that will impact some tributaries to the Bow River in our area. Prior to the new regulations, streams such as Bighill Creek were regulated in the fishing guideline regulations, under the section of Bow River and tributaries between Ghost Dam and Bearspaw. This meant that the regulations permitted only one trout under 35 cm could be harvested on a daily catch limit, during a portion of the open water season. This discouraged most anglers that like to keep a few trout for the dinner table.

Now that the new regulations are in place, those tributary streams in our reach of the Bow River will fall under the general Zone regulations for all streams not mentioned in the specific listings. This general guideline for streams allows a 2 trout daily limit, with both rainbow and cutthroat trout requiring to be greater than 35 cm in length. Brown trout and brook trout have no size restriction. Unfortunately, Bighill Creek and some other local streams are now open for a two trout harvest, from June 16th until August 31st. This is bad news for our trout fishery recovery program for the Bighill Creek.

You would think that because we are working very hard on bringing this trout stream back to life, we would have some type of protection in the fishing regulations during this endeavor. In modern times, it is a real blow to conservation minded anglers that an increase in the harvest of wild trout would occur after many years of progress has been made in the direction of a total catch and release policy for our wild trout streams.

Another stream that is undergoing a trout recovery program is the West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. Right now, there is a very small population of resident brown trout that are showing signs of an increase in reproduction for populating the creek. Surprisingly, under the present fishing regulations, there is also a two trout harvest limit on this stream as well. I shutter at the thought of someone killing a mature brown trout or two on the West Nose Creek, just to provide a meal. The impact of loosing these mature trout at this point in time is very troubling to me and those that are working hard to help the trout fishing recover in the West Nose Creek.

You would think that two trout streams that are located in such a highly populated area of the Bow River watershed, would receive the special attention that they need to make a come back. This should include a special listing in the fishing regulations that states a zero catch limit.

Further More – We loose 2.5 months of open season Fly Fishing

Up until 2016, the opening day for fly fishing on the Bighill Creek was April 1st, which made perfect sense, because brown trout and brook trout spawn in the fall. However, in the new regulations, the opening day has been moved forward to June 16th. The June 16th opening day was designed to protect spring spawning rainbow and cutthroat trout, so because neither of these trout spawn on Bighill Creek, there is no point in having such a late opening day. Catch and release fly fishers are now faced with finding another destination to fish, because of this new regulation.  There is no benefit to the fishery in this, nor does it protect the fishery in any way. Totally unnecessary.

Yet, angling is still allowed during the fall spawning period for brown trout and brook trout. Although there is a zero catch limit in the fall spawning period, the harassment of spawning trout is unsportsmanlike and a shame in my mind. Pretty much all of the fly fishers that I know that fish the creek, avoid fishing during the spawning season on the creek, including myself.

About Guy Woods

I am Director of Bow Valley Habitat Development, based in the Town of Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. I love to fly fish and it is this past time that prompted me to get involved in the field of riparian and fish habitat enhancement. I have been working in this pursuit for over 40 years!
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