Stream Tender     Magazine

February  2016 Issue

“ Millennium Creek Brook Trout Hatch Comes Early This Year”

    In 2010, Inter Pipeline and Bow Valley Habitat Development constructed a spawning channel on the primary ground spring that feeds Millennium Creek.

    Because the spawning channel was built right at the source of the spring, ground water temperatures during the winter months were warmer than the channel further down the stream.

    This warmer water incubated the brook trout eggs faster, with an earlier hatch resulting. The source water where the trout laid down their eggs in the gravel beds is also clean throughout the winter, insuring a higher percentage of survival in egg numbers.

    This winter, with warmer ground water and an early fall spawn in 2015, meant that the eggs hatched in December, with emergence from the gravel in late January. Trout larva will stay in the gravel for about a month after they hatch, living off of their egg sacks.

    On my first visit to the spawning channel on February 8th of this year, I was surprised to see how large the brook trout fry were. This is the earliest egg hatch that I have documented on the spawning channel over the past 6 years.

    Another thing that I noted was the high number of trout fry holding in the cover provided below the spawning channel. There were plenty of small trout concentrated in areas were there had only been a few on previous years.

    The trout fry were all in good form, with fat little bodies and obviously well fed. I believe that all of the woody debris that we added to provide cover for the young trout was also enhancing the invertebrate populations.

    After witnessing this early hatch of high numbers of trout, I can safely say that this year will be a great recruitment year for the stream.

How Many Brook Trout Fry Can You Spot in this Photo ?

Above: There are five brook trout fry in this photo. The area is a little over one square foot in size and the small trout utilize the rocks and woody debris for cover. Some days I will have to stay motionless for some time before the small trout come out of cover into view.

You can see the video on my You Tube Channel with this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn3Ytydnn8I

“Woody Debris is an Important Component of Fish Habitat”

    Without woody debris in a stream, there would be limited fish habitat. For streams that are void of boulders or rock outcropping, woody debris is the primary component of fish habitat.

    The growth of willows and trees above the water’s surface will provide good overhead cover. This overhead cover creates shade for stream trout. This is important for a healthy trout stream.

    As part of the natural process,  dead branches, tree trunks and washed out root systems from willows and trees eventually enter the water. It is when this happens the wood becomes debris and it will serve an important role in providing invertebrate and fish habitat.

    It is a well known fact that woody debris in a stream with adequate gradient can enhance

spawning habitat. The woody debris is a natural collection site for spawning gravel. Provided the woody debris is large enough to create the right flow dynamics in the stream channel.

    Just this last fall, I observed brook trout spawning below a tree trunk that had jammed across the stream channel and collected gravel on the downstream side. Brook trout were actively spawning in that clean gravel.

    Once the trout eggs hatch and the small juvenile trout migrate out of the spawning gravel, they will find  areas with woody debris to seek shelter in.

    This woody debris also has a good invertebrate population which tends to like the organic structure of the dead wood. The smaller invertebrates are preyed upon by

the juvenile trout, providing an important food source for the young fish. This food source will continue to sustain the trout fry during the first weeks and months of their lives.

    Another form of woody debris that enters a stream are the limbs or branches of willows and trees along the water’s edge. During winter snow falls, the weight of the snow on willow and tree branches will bend the branches down into the water or onto the ice.

    By the spring, these limbs and branches will end up either just over the surface of the water or down under the surface. This type of woody debris is very important habitat for trout.

    Eventually, these submerged limbs or branches will die off, but continue to be attached to the living willow or tree.

Where Do the Trout Go After Millennium Creek ?

    With all of these brook trout hatching on Millennium Creek, you must wonder where they eventually go. The trout will not live their entire lives on the small creek, but they will get their start there.

    Millennium Creek is a spawning and nursery stream. Trout lay their eggs there and when the eggs hatch, the juvenile trout have a safe environment to spend the first year or two of their lives. Pressure from competition will force some of the trout down and out of the spring creek, early in their lives.

    Millennium Creek enters the Bighill Creek and this is where the fish will eventually end up living. From where they enter Bighill Creek, there are plenty of kilometres of the larger stream for the brook trout to reside in. This migration into Bighill Creek will start in the second year of their

lives. However, some trout will stay in Millennium Creek until they are larger.

    Also, there are a few brook trout that migrate downstream of Bighill Creek and enter the Bow River. The Bow River is not the best type of habitat for brook trout. Due primarily to the fluctuating water levels during the summer and fall months.

    I have caught some nice brook trout in the Bow River in Cochrane, over the years, and I often wondered if they had started their lives in Millennium Creek. However, catching brook trout in the Bow River is not a common occurrence.

    There are growing numbers of brook trout in the Bighill Creek in recent years. I have hooked into some nice ones while fly fishing the small stream. It is great fun.

“Jumpingpound Creek to be Added into the BVRRE Program”

    The Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program will be expanded to include the Jumpingpound Creek this season.

    A small stream bank erosion site was chosen for a planting this spring. The planting will be rather small in scale, when compared to what will happen on the other streams in the program, but it will be a good start.

    It has been a few years since Bow Valley Habitat Development has completed projects on the Jumpingpound Creek, but it will be great to get bank on the JP once again.

    Permissions are already in place for the small project and

the plan is to complete the planting just after the spring run-off is over.

    The site is on a ranch just upstream of the Town of Cochrane. An eroding stream bank is threatening to undermine a livestock coral that is located close to the stream bank.

    The planting will be sponsored by Bow Valley Habitat Development. Because the project was not part of the 2016 proposal, BVHD will cover the costs this first year.

    If all works out as planned, we look forward to further stream bank riparian zone plantings on the Jumpingpound Creek in the future. I will keep you posted on this project.

Is There a Brown Trout Hatch on West Nose Creek ?

    After this last fall’s brown trout spawning event on West Nose Creek, I am anxious to see if the eggs incubated successfully over the winter months.

    Unlike some of the other small spring creeks that I monitor for a trout hatch, the larger West Nose Creek will be a difficult challenge for finding any newly hatched brown trout fry.

    With the spawning time similar to Bighill Creek, as well as the water temperature regime, I expect that the egg hatch will occur in late winter, with the trout emerging from the gravel sometime in late April and into May.

    Without applying for a research permit, I am hoping to capture the presence of brown trout fry by taking some video or photos. This will be a difficult task, but I will give it a try.

    I will concentrate my efforts just downstream of the key spawning location, below Country Hills Boulevard. I have already gain permission for access from the golf course, at that location on the creek,

    I will be focusing on the small lateral margin habitats just downstream of where the brown trout were spawning in the fall of 2015. I hope to get lucky with this search for new trout fry.

Below Photo:

 

    This photo of a large brown trout holding over a freshly dug redd or egg nest, was taken during the 2015 fall spawning event on West Nose Creek. I will be looking just downstream of this site for any sigh of a trout hatch.