Some good news amid the gloom!
Northern Lights Fly Fishers has been successful in securing grant funding from ACA for 3 major projects in 2020:
1. Conserving and Restoring Arctic Grayling in the Upper Pembina River Watershed – Habitat Restoration Planning
The project builds upon work done in previous years of the chapter’s Arctic Grayling conservation program and involves:
· water temperature monitoring at 20 sites in the Upper Pembina River watershed
· aerial videography using a quadcopter to:
- assess present habitat suitability in small tributary reaches with previously documented Arctic Grayling spawning, to determine their potential use as re-stocking sites
- locate and document OHV damaged sites
- locate and document potential sites for additional stream remediation efforts.
· installing trail cameras in selected sites to collect data about angling non-compliance or damage to habitat caused by OHV traffic as well as tracking seasonal high-water events.
· assisting AEP in identifying young-of-the-year/yearling rearing areas (as surrogates of spawning locations) using backpack electrofishing.
· assisting AEP with volunteer angling survey and underwater videography, to evaluate effectiveness of 5-year angling closure on Upper Pembina system.
There was hope of evaluating the potential of remote site incubators for future re-stocking purposes with advice from Dr. Magee, U of Montana, but this aspect of the grant proposal was unfortunately not included in the approved funding.
2. Riparian protection on Dogpound Creek
Dogpound Creek is recognized as a prime recreational fishery, especially for brown trout, and is visited by anglers from all areas of the province. Essential to its long-term survival is protection of the riparian land along the length of the Creek. Its banks consist of non-cohesive, fine alluvial materials and, especially where frequented by cattle, are subject to devegetation and erosion. Most of the existing fencing, installed over thirty years ago, is broken and flattened. The owners of a large cattle ranching operation along the creek near Carstairs have agreed to the terms of a Riparian Conservation Program with ACA including upkeep of new fencing. With this grant Northern Lights will support that partnership by:
· protecting 49 acres of riparian land on the property from degradation by cattle ranching and reduce siltation and effluent introduction into the creek along 3.8 km of Dogpound Creek, by removing damaged fencing and installing new wildlife friendly fencing;
· providing alternate watering for the cattle by repairing two off-site watering facilities;
· installing 16 access gates to the riparian area and creek for anglers and others.
· promoting awareness of the need for and benefits of riparian protection.
The goals are to establish conditions for a healthier river, improve habitat for fish and wildlife, and increase recreational opportunity for anglers and those interested in experiencing nature in a more pristine setting. Hopefully the project will also provide a model of effective and achievable riparian protection and increase knowledge of its importance and benefits.
3. Aeration of Hasse Lake
Hasse Lake was originally developed as a provincial park and became a popular trout fishery, stocked by AEP with approx. 20,000 rainbow trout annually and producing fish in excess of 3lbs. It is a 90 ha lake with an average depth of 3.5m set in rolling hills with extensive aspen growth. It has a sandy beach, picnic area with fire pits, 3 km of walking trails, a boat launch and angling platform and is a popular birdwatching area. Water quality gradually deteriorated, however, largely due to increasing phosphorous levels. Blue-green algae began to appear. Dissolved oxygen levels decreased and fish began to die. Public Health became involved and closed the beach issuing fecal bacteria warnings. In 2009 AEP stopped stocking trout. Efforts to turn the lake into a walleye, pike and perch fishery in 2012 failed and AEP ceased all stocking that same year.
In response to public requests to rehabilitate the lake, in particular from the Northern Lights Chapter and the Edmonton Trout Fishing Club, ACA began in 2015 to collaborate with local community groups and land owners to reduce nutrient loading in Hasse Lake. Improvements to and protection of much of the lake’s riparian area were such that by 2019 ACA assessment recorded DO levels adequate to support trout although thermal stratification remained a concern. E-coli and fecal coliforms were at or slightly below Alberta Health and Safety guidelines. AEP agreed to restock the lake with trout in the spring of 2020 provided that ACA continued to improve the water quality of the lake. Should that prove successful AEP further agreed to add more rainbow trout in the fall and also to diversify the fishery by the addition of tiger trout.
The most effective way to continue to improve water quality and enhance conditions for trout survival was clearly identified as intensive lake aeration. This would increase dissolved oxygen, reduce nutrient levels and improve the aquatic environment for the organisms that fish rely on for food. The Northern Lights Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada, based on the success of the aeration program it helped fund and maintain at Muir Lake, will:
· purchase five surface aerators and associated cables and assist ACA as needed with their installation and monitoring;
· communicate the availability of Hasse Lake as an additional recreational angling opportunity and of the associated social, recreational, health and economic benefits it brings to the community
· encourage financial support from local authorities and businesses for the Hasse Lake Reclamation Project and ongoing maintenance of water quality in the lake.
Approved Club Funded Projects:
· In conjunction with Edmonton Trout Fishing Club and Edmonton Oldtimers Fishing Club we will continue to work on replacing the Welcome signage and educational plaques at Muir Lake that have become weather worn and unreadable. ETFC is installing an additional plaque in the Walk of Fame honouring Reg Denny, and NLFF is adding Don Andersen to the Walk of Fame and rewriting the George and Joan Mitchell plaque as the Mitchell Family to incorporate recognition of the outstanding contributions of Barry Mitchell.
· Continue to advocate for additional protection for Arctic Grayling, especially in the upper Pembina, by disseminating information to provincial and federal authorities obtained from the analysis of ARGR DNA by Jessica Reilly and Dr. Josh Miller commissioned by NLFF.
· Support the work of TUC in protecting bulltrout spawning areas in MacKenzie Creek with a financial contribution and stream work as and when needed.
· Putting $2,500 on hold for exploring the possibility of establishing remote site incubators in the upper Pembina river and/or its tributaries to assist with the reestablishment of Artic Grayling populations in the area.
· Assist ACA with the Kids Can Catch programs at Fort Saskatchewan Pond and at Don Sparrow Lake, Beaumont.
· Provide fly-tying instruction to school groups and youth organizations when requested and as volunteer time allows.
· Assist TUC with running the Edmonton Conservation Dinner and Auction (it's postponed indefinitely right now).
All of the above will be done as and when conditions allow.
Hopefully we can hold a meeting again soon or better yet, go fishing!!