Text Box: Stream Tender Magazine

“ December 2013 Issue”

 

WEST NOSE CREEK RIPARIAN RECOVERY AND ENHANCEMENT PROJECT

    During my research, I discovered that the area upstream of the confluence of West Nose Creek and Nose Creek, was electro-fished in 2010 and again in 2012. In both fishing programs, brown trout were captured.

    Now that we know that natural migration of brown trout can possibly repopulate West Nose Creek, all attention can be directed toward habitat improvements. It is a long term goal!

    If the stream’s habitat conditions are conducive to maintaining trout populations in the future, everything else will take care of itself! In the meantime, all that is necessary is to restore the stream to a more attractive environment.

    Riparian recovery projects are the best approach in this particular case. The shade provided by willows and trees will help to keep the water temperatures low enough to support a trout population.

    Bow Valley Habitat Development has secured permissions for three different properties for the 2014 West Nose Creek Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. Two of these properties are located north of the City of Calgary and the third is within the city itself.

    If we can start on a few different properties, the results will benefit the stream’s health and over time I expect the program to expand. Even if we can restore healthy riparian zones at different locations along the creek, the water temperatures will be influenced in a positive trend.

    All projects with such an ambitious goal, need to start somewhere, and I consider the proposed 2014 program an excellent start!

    I will keep you posted on any future developments, in this magazine!

Above: Brown trout are a very hardy member of the trout family, and they are best suited for many of our foothill streams, where influences from development and agriculture have had an negative impact on the health of our flowing waters. Brook trout are often found in the upper reaches of many of our Alberta brown trout streams.

Above: This is the upper property that BVHD has permission to plant on. The property is a conservation easement and already some willow growth is occurring. By planting more plants, we can speed up the recovery. Both of the properties on the upper reach of West Nose Creek are excluded from cattle grazing, so there is an insurance of unimpeded riparian growth, without loss from livestock.

Above: This is a photo of the lower riparian recovery area on West Nose Creek. You can see that there is plenty of meander in this stream channel, which is vital for providing good future fish habitat. You can also see from this photo that there is no willow or tree growth along the stream channel. This makes this site a perfect recovery project site.

Beaver “Snacks” on One of Our Willow Plants!

    In August of 2013, I noticed that a beaver had made a “snack” of one of our willow plants, from the 2011 Inter Pipeline planting program, on Bighill Creek. I thought that I would take a picture of the stump, so that I could show how a third year plant can recover from such damage.

    It took approximately three weeks for the first signs of new growth to show up on the stump of the willow plant. Buds started to form on a few nodes at the base of the remaining trunk of the willow plant. I took a photo of the plant and later put it in a file on my computer.

    A few months later, in October, I took the final photo of the recovering willow plant. The signs of recovery were quite evident by that time!

    It had been almost three months since the beaver had chewed off the willow plant, near its base. Yet, in that period of time, the plant had developed small branches with leaves and it was growing rapidly.

    I expect that this fast growth will be exceptional during next year’s growing season. Also, I predict that the plant will be more full with branches and leaves than the other plants that were not touched.

    With the root systems well developed on the plant, by the time that the beaver attacked it, its survival was insured.

    Depending on what stage of growth these plants are pruned at, we at least know that third year plants are insured of survival!

You can see the top of the original cutting

Above: You can see the new growth starting on the stump of the willow plant that was left by the beaver.

Above: This is the same plant approximately three months later. Note the rapid growth on the willow.

    LOTS OF WATER FLOWING DOWN BIGHILL CREEK THESE DAYS!

    Apart from the major flooding that we experienced this year, it is niece to see so much water flowing down our area trout streams! The water table has definitely come up over the past 10 years or so, around this part of the country.

    With an increase in the volume of flow in the creeks, we are witnessing a recovery of the sport fishery. Which also means that certain types of wildlife are going to benefit as well.

    There is a growing rookery of blue herons up the valley of the Bighill Creek and I expect that it will continue to grow in size. As long as there is a healty fishery, the large birds will flourish along the valley bottom.

    This fall, I noticed one blue heron discovered the benefits of wading on the bottom side of the trout spawning channel on Millennium Creek. This particular bird was well fed on the mature brook trout that were moving up the spawning channel to lay their eggs.

    Fortunately, enough trout made it through the gauntlet to lay their eggs. Obviously, there were enough trout to feed the blue heron on its daily feed time, yet allow other fish to do their re-productive duties.

    We just have to accept this natural occurrence as part of the process. As long as there are enough trout to spawn, the birds can have their share of the bounty!

   

    With the high volume of flow in  local waters, I am expecting some really good fishing in the future. There is so much more habitat for trout, when the water levels are up high for the entire open water season.

    There are some small creeks that I have not visited for a number of years that deserve an inspection, with a fly rod in hand. Trout will quickly migrate up small streams, when the water levels are high enough and there is good habitat for them to maintain their diet and find cover, for the open water season.

    I suspect that a considerable amount of shoreline habitat will  develop, as a result of the increase in annual precipitation.

    I have already noticed new willow growth on some creeks, on pasture land where cattle are grazing. As long as this land is not over grazed, the willows may continue to grow. One needs to be optimistic in such matters.

    During this year’s spawning survey, it was noted that much of the new spawning activity on small feeder spring creeks that are tributaries to the Bighill Creek, can be directly attributed to the increased volume of water in the system.

    I hope that this trend continues long enough that many area small streams can be repopulated with the resident trout that they once held years earlier.

    Time will tell!

Left Photo:

    This photo of the Bighill Creek was taken on November 5th of this fall. You can see that there is a considerable amount of water in the stream channel, for November.

    If this trend of higher annual flows continues, we should expect to see a more rapid recovery of the trout fishery.

    The dramatic increase in spawning activity on the Bighill Creek, in the fall of recent years, can be directly attributed to the increase in the volume of flow in the stream!