Stream Tender Magazine

June 2015 Issue

“ Major Bighill Creek Bank Erosion Site is Starting to Stabilize “

Above: This willow plant was covered by more bank sliding, yet the plant continues to grow, one year later.

With the willow cuttings planted deep into the base of the eroding and steep slope, the plants are well anchored for any future slippage on the steep unstable stream bank.

Above: Eroding stream banks like the one pictured above are responsible for loading tonnes of silt annually into the stream channel on the Bighill Creek. By planting Stage One willow cuttings in the moist area at the base of the steep slopes, the erosion impacts will start to reduce and eventually the steep banks will stabilize over time. This is the most cost effective method of dealing with problem sites such as this one. The banks require a number of treatments (plantings), in the first attempts to establish willow plants, but it is still worth the effort.

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You can explore old issues of Stream Tender Magazine by clicking on the first two volume links below. Also, by clicking the previous issues link on each cover page, you can access issues from each volume.

Above: These willows were planted along the stream bank of Nose Creek in Sierra Springs, in the City of Airdrie, in 2013. Although their growth is slow, they will eventually provide some good over head cover along the stream bank. As you can see in this photo taken this early spring, the water quality in the creek is very poor at certain times during the year. However, there is still a population of pike that reside in the Nose Creek.

“ Rainbow Trout are Back in Bighill Creek  -  Along with Some Other Surprises “

    I still fish the Bighill Creek from time to time, to monitor any increase in the resident trout populations. Besides the normal population of brook trout and brown trout in the stream, I have noticed a sudden increase in the population of rainbow trout over the past few years.

    When I was just a young boy, growing up in the Town of Cochrane and fishing when ever I had a chance, there were lots of rainbow trout populating the stream. Even after Alberta Fish & Wildlife stopped stocking rainbow trout in the mid—1960’s, there were always a few rainbows to be caught in the Bighill.

    Back then, you could catch them right in the what is now Ranch House Park and the Glenbow area of town, on the creek. Some of the rainbow trout that I caught back then were very large for a small creek. I remember a few 18 inch fish that ended up on the dinner plate. Of course, nowadays the killing of any trout from the creek would be considered in bad taste.

    Last year, I noted that I was catching more small rainbow trout than I had in previous years, so this definitely made me think of the old times and I looked forward to a possible recovery of their populations. All that the rainbow trout need to survive in the Bighill is enough water and habitat to provide them with a place to safely reside.

    The creek is too muddy and silt laden during the spring spawning season, to provide any spawning habitat and conditions, but the trout will still move up the creek from the Bow River. So you can consider the creek as both a nursery habitat for small rainbow trout and also now a habitat for some larger trout.

    Over the last few years, the largest rainbow trout that I caught was approximately 12 inches, but I did witness Joe Thompson catch a nice 14 inch fish last year. This got me all excited and now I have a special interest in seeing where the population of rainbow trout will go

from this point in time. We may see some real interesting developments in the near future.

    I expect that the present population that stays in the creek will reach the same size as they once did in the stream. Wouldn’t that be something, hooking into an 18 inch rainbow trout on such a small body of trout water.

    All of the rainbow trout that I have caught thus far are fat and very healthy looking fish, so apparently there is enough of the right type of food for rainbows in the creek. When the trout get a little larger, there is also a good population of minnows for the hungry big trout to feed on. This forage fish would accelerate the growth of the rainbow trout in a shorter period of time.

    Another big surprise for me this spring, was the capture of a cutthroat trout in the Bighill Creek. I could not believe my eyes when I took a second to look closely at what was in my net. The distinct red

slash under the mouth and  gill plate was easy to spot. The cutthroat trout also had the typical spotting pattern, heavy spots on the tail area and an absence of spots on the sides.

    This is the first cutthroat trout I have caught on the Bighill Creek since the early 1960’s, when a few from the Bow River would wander up the creek looking for a place to live. Back then, there were still a lot more cutthroat trout in the Bow River in Cochrane. I suspect that they were wash downs from the Jumpingpound Creek and the Ghost watershed.

    Hopefully, the Bighill Creek fishery recovery will continue to provide such pleasant surprises as what has occurred over the past few years. Discoveries such as these help to motivate all of those involved in any work to make the creek a healthy sport fishery and just a great place to visit.

    I will continue to monitor the creek with my fly rod for any more developments in the recovery of the sport fishery.

BHC -Rainbow Trout

BHC — Cutthroat Trout

Ranch House Spring Creek Will Be Ready For Spawning This Fall

    After the 2014 issue with Cochrane Lake water being pumped into the Ranch House Spring Creek, during the fall spawning season, hopefully we will see the creek back to normal by this fall. I have inspected the creek and this spring the streambed was covered in silt and algae, but soon it should be flushed clean.

    All we need at this point in time is a few good days of rain to wash the streambed free of what had been deposited last year. I expect to see brook trout spawning again this fall, with a little help from Mother Nature and some eager trout to pursue their reproductive instincts.

    There were a few blockages in the stream channels course and these have all been removed, except for one which we will get after later on this summer.

    The blockages consisted of woody debris that had jammed in the stream channel after all of the water that came down the system last year. The one remaining blockage is a willow tree that was undercut and ended up in the stream channel. If the flush of a few days of good rain doesn’t clear this final blockage, we will get after it before the trout move up the creek to spawn.

    The volume of flow is still good this spring, despite the dry weather. So there must be a good ground water supply that is feeding the springs. If we get some more decent rainfalls this June, I think that the creek will be in great shape for the fall spawning season.

    Ranch House Spring Creek is such a small creek but it is definitely an important spawning tributary to the Bighill Creek.