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.

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March Update – Trout Hatch-lings Doing Well

On March 1st. I visited the Millennium Creek spawning channel to see how the new batch of brook trout hatch-lings were doing. The trout started to emerge from the spawning beds in the last week of January this year and it was looking like a pretty good hatch for this season. While inspecting the site, I saw some of the early hatched trout, which were looking pretty good in condition and I also spotted a few new arrivals, from a later emergence. A few photos were taken of some of the first to hatch to compare their growth with a month earlier.

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Above: This month old brook trout fry was almost motionless over a small flat rock on a still water area adjacent to the spawning channel. I watch it eat a small midge emerging on the surface, just after I took this photo.

As expected, this year’s hatch on Millennium Creek is turning out to be a great one, with plenty of new trout for the Bighill Creek. The spawning channel was constructed in 2010 and since its first fall spawning that occurred that year, it has been responsible for hatching thousands of new brook trout, year after year, without missing one season. It was a partnership project between BVHD and Inter Pipeline, which turned out to be a fantastic investment in our local trout fishery.

New March Issue of Stream Tender Magazine Now Available

The new March issue of Stream Tender Magazine is now available for review. In this issue, three local writers contributed articles for the publication, along with photo submissions from a few other fly fishers. There is more fly fishing stuff in this latest publication, which should be of interest to area anglers. A special fly tying content was also included in the March issue.

Along with the fly fishing, readers can get an update on the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program, and some other fish habitat enhancement information. There is also news on new regulation changes that will benefit the area trout fishery in a big way.

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2017 Brook Trout Hatch on Millennium Creek

New Generation of Trout for Millennium Creek

It was nice to see the first batch of brook trout fry on Millennium Creek this January. The small trout had just recently emerged from the spawning gravel and they were already taking refuge in some of the woody debris that volunteers had placed in a quite still water area just downstream of the spawning channel.

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The tiny brook trout shown above was holding motionless over a hand sized rock on the bottom of a still water area, next to the spawning channel. This trout still had its round tail, yet to develop into the typical square tail of the brook trout. In its temporary habitat, there is an abundant supply of midge larva and other small invertebrates to get the young trout off to a good start in life.

Watching this new generation of trout hatch on Millennium Creek always lifts my spirits and makes me look forward to another year of working on some area trout streams. This year’s hatch on the spawning channel is the 7th annual hatch since the spawning channel was constructed in 2010. The spawning channel project was and still is one of the most rewarding projects that I have had the pleasure of working on in recent years. The results from the project were instantaneous, with trout spawning on the channel a few months after it was constructed in 2010.

Presently, Bow Valley Habitat Development and its partners are working on riparian restoration work on some area streams. The long term benefits will come over time, when new fish habitat is created by the planting of native willows and trees right along the water’s edge. However, it will take years to see the real benefits. Some projects make a huge difference right after they are completed, while other projects take time to realize the full results. This is just fine with me, knowing that we are on the right course. In a few years, after being patient, the riparian planting work will make the efforts of volunteers and partners worthwhile.

New Issue of Stream Tender Magazine Available in a Few Days

On the first of March 2017, I will upload the next issue of Stream Tender Magazine. There are articles by three contributors in this next issue, which is great to see. More fly fishing and fly tying stuff will be featured in the new issue, to make it more interesting for the fly fishing crowd, which will hopefully expand the readership. Fly fishers are major stake holders in our trout stream resource, so I expect that they will enjoy the read.

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program Update – Feb. 2017

The 2017 program is starting to take shape, with good partnership support so far. This could be another banner year for the riparian planting program. By the end of March, I should have a pretty good idea of the scope of this year’s program. So far, there is enough support to plant approximately 5,000 native willow and tree plants, with more to come.

Earlier on in January, I visited some of the planting sites from the last three years. The stream bank stabilization sites look particularly great, because the density of plants and the white snow shows off the native willow and tree plants. The photo below gives you an idea of what I am talking about. This is one of 58 stream bank stabilization sites on the Bighill Creek, in the Town of Cochrane.

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The winter ice on the creek has been elevated by a few feet, so you can only see the tops of the native plants that were planted over the past few years. This was an especially bank eroding stream bank on the creek, so stabilization will help prevent many tonnes of silt from entering the stream in the future.

Whirling Disease in our Reach of the Bow River

Late in 2016, a total of 5 positive sample results were documented on our reach of the Bow River, between the Ghost Dam and Bearspaw Dam. One of the samples was found in the Jumpingpound Creek, just upstream of the confluence. This could be a disaster for the rainbow trout that reproduce in the JP Creek. Only time will tell how the impacts of this invasive disease will damage our trout fishery. In 2016, a total of 41 positive samples were found on the entire Bow River, from its upper reach, downstream to near Bassano, Alberta.

Some river systems in the USA that have the disease present in their trout waters have not be impacted as severely as other river systems. No doubt environmental conditions may play a role in this. For the time being, the only thing that we can do as anglers, is too help prevent the spread of the disease. The most obvious measure to take, is too make sure that you wash all of your wading equipment and nets off after any outing. Pontoon boats, float tubes and other boating equipment should also be thoroughly cleaned between trips to the water.

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Happy Holidays

Another Season Wraps Up and a New Year is Close at Hand

With the recent release of the December Issue of Stream Tender Magazine, Bow Valley Habitat Development is now focused on preparing a riparian planting program for 2017. The next big event comes in January, when Millennium Creek will be closely watched for emergence of brook trout from the 2016 spawning season. I look forward to updating you all in the March issue of the magazine, or possibly another post on this blog site.

I am really excited about this year’s trout hatch on the Bighill and West Nose Creek systems. Clear water flowing in both streams this late fall will hopefully result in a good trout hatch in the New Year. On the Bighill Creek system, having three primary spring feeder tributaries, will result in a good predicable egg hatch, where the main-stem is less predictable. On West Nose Creek, in the early spring, I will closely monitor the key spawning areas on the creek to see if I can verify a successful egg hatch. It is more difficult to accomplish this on West Nose and the main-stem of BH Creek, due to the turbid water in both creeks, but I may get lucky.

Keep checking out this website for future developments and in the meantime, have a great holiday season.

Best regards,

Guy Woods, Director/BVHD


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December 2016 Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

Just Uploaded The New Issue.

I just uploaded the December issue of “Stream Tender Magazine“. There is some exciting news to share with you, regarding the West Nose Creek fisheries restoration program. Also included, updates on this year’s riparian restoration and fish habitat enhancement work. Please take the time to check it out. Thanks – Guy Woods

2017 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

It is still early in the 2017 BVRR&E Program Partnership Program year, but I already have some solid commitments for the next season of work on three area streams. The streams are Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek. Some additional planting will also take place on Jumpingpound Creek this next year as well.

The benefits from past plantings on these streams is already showing positive results. This is especially evident on Bighill Creek, in the Town of Cochrane. The Bighill Creek riparian program started earlier than the ongoing work that is being carried out on the other two streams, so early signs of recovery are more advanced. The most noticeable results are related to improved water quality.

With a total of 58 stream bank stabilization sites that have been planted over the past few years, the amount of silt loading into the stream channel on Bighill Creek has been greatly reduced. This year, I noted that the stream bed on the lower reaches of the creek are cleaning up and more gravel, cobble and boulder habitat is revealing its presence on areas that were once covered with silt.

dscf1418Above: This stream bank erosion site on the Bighill Creek is now being held together by a crop of native willows that form a solid root network in the loose soil. Over time these plants will provide shade and cover for the resident trout population.

Stream Tender Magazine is Transforming

This fall it was determined that having more content relating to fly fishing in Stream Tender Magazine would expand the readership for the publication. So articles on fly fishing, fly tying and local fly fishing destinations will be added to every issue. In the December issue of 2016, articles by Joe Thompson and Jake Gotta are included on page 9 and 10 of the magazine.

Fly fisher’s are major stakeholders in the protection and enhancement of our trout streams, so having information that is directed at these topics will help keep these sport anglers more informed about their home waters. I have found that most responsible fly fisher’s are conservation minded individuals, so this transformation in the publication should be of interest to them.

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West Nose Creek Spawning Brown Trout 2016

Big Year for West Nose Creek Spawning

The 2016 fall spawning event on West Nose Creek was a huge success, in respect to the number of spawning brown trout this year. A total of 31 large brown trout redds were documented and mapped in the 2016 spawning survey report.

dsc00185-cropped-downAbove: A large male West Nose Creek brown trout holds over a redd, waiting for the female to return, after it was spooked by my approach.

One of the major discoveries during the 2016 spawning survey on West Nose, was the mapping of a new key spawning habitat further up the system than last year. Now we know that brown trout spawn as far as 10 kilometres upstream of the confluence with Nose Creek. This should result in a significant increase in the number of new brown trout higher up the stream after next year’s hatch.

img_5377Above: This double brown trout redd excavation was unmistakable when discovered. When the redds or egg nests are fresh, the clean gravel is obvious to the spawning surveyor’s eye. All of the redds mapped where large in size, representing large trout.

dsc00209Above: A pair of West Nose Creek brown trout spawning over large gravel on the stream this fall.

This year, I was lucky enough to capture some great video of the brown trout spawning on West Nose Creek. You can check out the video below:

I am very pleased with having the opportunity to share some of the discoveries made on the West Nose Creek this year. The information gathered will be of great benefit to the ongoing restoration of the trout fishery on this great “Spring Creek”, located in the City of Calgary, Alberta.


Trout Unlimited also participated in the spawning survey on West Nose Creek this fall. After the above had been published, I received the findings of the TU study, which was great news for the overall results. In their study, which concentrated more on the lower reach of West Nose Creek, they mapped and documented a total of 17 additional brown trout redds. This brings the overall total up to 48 brown trout redds for the fall study of 2016.

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – October 2016 Update

Another Great Year of Riparian Planting.

I have just completed the tally sheets for another season of riparian plantings on Bighill, West Nose and Nose Creek. We set a record for planting this year at a total number of native willows and tree plants, it added up to 16,425. Over the past few years, since the program was started in 2014, the overall total of plants is now at 41,725. This makes the riparian restoration program one of the largest in Canada and North America.

dscf1342-enhancedAbove: These willows were planted in 2015, along the stream banks of West Nose Creek.

This season, the total volunteer effort came to 510 volunteer person hours, to plant along approximately 15 kilometers of stream bank. The distribution of plants was as follows:

Bighill Creek – 2,300 plants; West Nose Creek – 10,100 plants;Nose Creek – 3,900 plants; Millennium Creek – 100 plants and Jumpingpound Creek – 25 large diameter plants.

A total of 34 volunteers made this year’s program possible. The partners involved in this year’s program were as follows:

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Inter Pipeline; Shell Canada; The City of Calgary; The City of Airdrie; The Town of Cochrane; The Cochrane Foundation; ATCO; Evergreen and HSBC; The Airdrie Ventures.

Bow Valley Habitat Development is already underway with organizing a partnership program for the 2017 season. Hopefully, it will turn out as good as this years planting program, or even the previous two seasons.

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Exciting News For West Nose Creek’s Future Trout Fishery

Important Discovery Made

In 2015, Bow Valley Habitat Development discovered spawning brown trout on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. This year, another important discovery was made by BVHD on the small stream. This new development promises huge potential for the future establishment of a spring creek trout fishery in the City of Calgary. There was a successful hatch of some of the brown trout eggs from the previous 2015 fall spawn, on West Nose Creek.

The discovery of juvenile brown trout that have hatched on the stream, was made on August 30th, of this year. Not by electro fishing and not by netting or trapping, but by capturing the small trout on a fly rod. Using a very small nymph fly pattern as a lure. Sounds pretty incredible, but that is exactly what happened.

Bow Valley Habitat Development had obtained a research licence from ASRD Fish & Wildlife, to conduct a trout trapping study in mid-July, but a series of flood events on the small creek had postponed the trapping study until next season. The objective of the study was to determine whether any of the brown trout eggs from the fall 2015 spawn had successfully incubated and hatched.

Anxious to find out if there were any new generations of trout in the creek, I decided to conduct an angling survey to capture a YOY brown trout with my fly rod. After six hours of angling, and catching a number of Lake Chub and one dace, I hit pay dirt. I caught an 80 mm long juvenile brown trout from the 2016 hatch on West Nose Creek.

DSCF1325 small fileAbove: This is the small 80 mm juvenile brown trout that I captured on West Nose Creek. After the photo session, the small trout was released in good condition, back into the stream.

The small trout was captured just downstream of the Harvest Hills Boulevard.

DSCF1318 cropped small fileAbove: This photo shows the Harvest Hills Boulevard Overpass in the background. This was a really healthy looking juvenile brown trout specimen, so they must do just fine in the creek.

Just because trout are observed spawning in a creek, it doesn’t mean that there is successful reproduction. The eggs laid down in the spawning gravel need to have clean enough, well oxygenated water to survive incubation. Now that we know that some eggs hatch on West Nose Creek, we can take measures to improve the survival rate. Also; with evidence of some recruitment, a major significant value is added to the stream’s potential.

You can read more about this entire story in the December issue of Stream Tender Magazine.

September Issue of Stream Tender Magazine – Now Available Online and it is a Free Read:

As of September 1st, 2016, the new issue of Stream Tender Magazine has been uploaded to the Web. Hey; that’s today. Read all about this year’s “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” and other local stories of interest. Please enjoy the read.

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program 2016 – August Update

Record Planting Set for This Year

As of August 25th., 2016, a record number of native willow and tree plants were planted in the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” for 2016. The final planting event for this year happened on Thursday of this week, with an Evergreen/HSBC planting on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. The planting of 300 native willows brought the total for this year’s program up to 16,425 native willows and tree plants.

Despite rainy weather, a team of volunteers managed to get the job done in a short period of time, urged on by the threat of heavy rain and the possibility of thunder and lightning, which would have brought the planting to a sudden end that afternoon, but we were lucky.

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With the cool wet weather, everyone worked comfortably in their rain gear at an accelerated pace. This is typical on cooler, wet days, when moving faster keeps a planter warm and anxious to get the job done.


Last year, in the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” a total of 14,800 plants were planted along the stream banks of Nose, West Nose and Bighill Creek. It was very rewarding to surpass that previous goal with an additional 1,625 plants for this year. This scope of riparian plantings on our local waters make the program a major watershed restoration program, even on a national scale.

New Issue of Stream Tender Magazine to be Released

The September issue of Stream Tender Magazine will be uploaded to the internet on the first day of the month. Please check out this free publication for more detailed reports on this year’s activities. There are also links on the cover page to the Stream Tender Youtube video channel and more.

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