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Watching A Trout Stream Die!


Don Andersen
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WATCHING A CREEK DIE! ONE MAN’S OBSERVATION

 

It isn't pretty but it's happening to the premier spring creek in Alberta. The North Raven River [stauffer Creek] is internationally renowned. From when it was first stocked in the late 1920's or early 1930's it was largely ignored by most anglers and like a lot of streams in Alberta was severely abused by agribusiness. In the late 1960's the Red Deer Fish and Game funded Fish and Wildlife [now Alberta Sustainable Resource Development SRD] to do a fish population study. The study plus the availability of monies raised from the newly created Buck for Wildlife Fund resulted in tens of thousands of dollars spent on livestock exclusion fences, bank stabilization and land acquisition. The Fish and Wildlife Division efforts were augmented later by thousands of volunteer hours, plus further thousands of dollars from the Central Alberta Chapter of Trout Unlimited. As a result the fish populations exploded.

 

Way back about 2002 or so I had a gut feeling that Stauffer Creek was suffering some type of problem as the number of decent fish I and others were catching dropped dramatically. The drop was to the point that most anglers voted with their feet and didn't go there any more.

My gut feeling was reinforced by the Alberta Conservation Association's [ACA] Population study undertaken in 2005. It showed a marked drop in larger brown trout. The brown population peaked in 1985 at 770 fish/km decreasing to 400 in 1995 and falling further in 2005 to 270.

 

In an effort to confirm what I "thought" was happening, over the past 6 years I have paid attention to the number of redds that I see and to that end I've walked the upper reaches of Stauffer upwards of one-half dozen times each fall/winter looking for evidence of spawning trout demonstrated by the amount of redds. For example, in the section just downstream of the Buck for Wildlife parking lot, the redd count dropped from 14>16 five years ago to 12 fours years ago to 9 three years ago and dropped again to 5 last year and finally to 2 this year. This is a 85% reduction in just the last five years. Other sections showed much the same decrease.

 

For the complete report see my web site: http://bamboorods.ca/Stauffercreekstory.html

 

 

 

 

regards,

 

 

Don

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Your information is great Don your finds are sad. Is there any chance that the Brookies are doing the same thing to the Browns that Brookies are doing to Bulltrout. Just a thought. Being the notorious egg eater they are, I always considered Brookies in streams and rivers an invasive species in Alberta. That is why I dont like them in moving water with other indigenous and non indigenous species. They make a great trout for isolated lakes or potholes.

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I'm sure I don't fish Stauffer nearly as often as Don, but the last three times I fished downstream of the BFW sign I saw a pike. That would be 2010 and 2011. The first two were just hammer-handles, but the last one was pretty sizable. I have a fair bit of experience sight-fishing for pike, and I'd say it was at least 7lbs. All three refused to budge for a fly, and my first thought was that they were probably stuffed with trout. I thought it was a big deal, and started to sound the alarm, but a couple of senior NLFT members told me that it was not uncommon to see the occasional pike in Stauffer, and it was nothing to worry about.

 

Please let us know if there's anything we can do to help, Don.

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Temperature and Competition between Bull Trout and Brook Trout ...

 

Pike I am sure have been is Stauffer longer than Browns and Brookies, at least in my last 40 years of fishing they have always been there to my knowledge. But thats not very long really maybe someone older could let me know if Pike have been there longer....haha..I am sure Pike dont help the population out, but that much decline leads me to believe something more sinister is going on.

 

Bull Trout Conservation Management Plan 2012 - SRD.Alberta.ca

 

Stelfox2

 

Maybe this is the same issue more than other possibilities.

 

Just some of my research on this possible bad situation. Man I need to join the World Wildlife Fund, they do awareness programs dont they. Hold the applause thank you....lol..

 

Can there be a connection here as well with Brown Trout. Just saying....

 

After reading all this stuff, I am wondering if the Brook Trout has dealt another species although another non native species a similar blow to the likes of the native Bull Trout and as they do to Cutthroat and Rainbows as documented. There is likely more than one contributing factor, but it wouldn't surprise me when you look at the mix in Stauffer. Just a thought...I always said those pretty little Brookies are notorious egg and fry eaters for an invasive species. Waiting for Triploid Brookies to show up in our lakes and hopefully not our rivers and streams ever again.

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Garham,

 

Bookies and Browns do breed. In Alberta there has been to my knowledge 3 brook/brown crosses ever found. It is very rare.

As far as Brooke's egg stealing, they can steal eggs that are available to them. The ones that were laid and not covered by the brown. These eggs will not hatch so it really doesn't matter. Now I don't know about you, but I rather doubt that I'd try to make time with a female who outweighs me by 10>20 times and is courted by very pugnatious males.

Mind you horny is occasionally tough to deal with and can cause painful bruises.

 

Catch ya'

 

 

Don

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Garham,

 

Bookies and Browns do breed. In Alberta there has been to my knowledge 3 brook/brown crosses ever found. It is very rare.

As far as Brooke's egg stealing, they can steal eggs that are available to them. The ones that were laid and not covered by the brown. These eggs will not hatch so it really doesn't matter. Now I don't know about you, but I rather doubt that I'd try to make time with a female who outweighs me by 10>20 times and is courted by very pugnatious males.

Mind you horny is occasionally tough to deal with and can cause painful bruises.

 

Catch ya'

 

 

Don

 

Lol, thats funny Don and I don't like thinking about the big ones. Some cultures prefer a big mama and it is considered desirable and even manly. But there still is a possibility that I might eat the kids.....lol.

 

The cross breeding isnt as big an issue as they are usually sterile (in most cases not all) and there is usually little cross over in the big picture of natural selection. But if Brookies have a serious enough of a effect on Bull Trout throughout Alberta and Bull Trout both Males and females can be considerably larger than mature Rainbows also effected and Cutthroat also effected then why not Browns. All the other species effected by Brookies have class size measurable to Brown's.

 

With both being fall spawners there is considerable over lapp during this spawn period. It as also been observed that Brookies and other species are not pushed out as easily as we think especially when the host fish is focused on spawning as they will often ignore or throw a limited chase to territorialize and protect there spawn site.

 

I seriously think if Brookies can effect a Bull Trout, Cutthroat and Rainbow population they certainly can do the same to Browns.

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