Alberta Fish Rescue
SOUTHERN ALBERTA CROPS AND RANGELANDS depend on water supplies from the various irrigation canals that divert water from the Bow, Highwood, Belly, Waterton, Oldman, and other rivers. There are currently 13 irrigation districts in southern Alberta that deliver water to over 1.3 million acres of farmland. Irrigation is extremely important to Alberta’s economy and to the livelihood of many southern Albertans. However, countless fish enter irrigation canal diversions throughout the summer months and are lost to the system. Once fish have entered canal, they cannot travel back to their original systems without human assistance. Of the six canals that have consistently been a part of TUC's Fish Rescue program, only one has an exclusion device that prevents larger fish from entering the canal.
The goal of TUC’s Fish Rescue program is to capture as many fish as possible from these canals and return them to functional waterbodies. TUC works closely with Alberta Environment to accomplish this task. The project depends on support from corporate and private donors and volunteers in local communities. Without volunteer involvement, this project would not go forth. Besides rescuing thousands of fish, valuable data is collected regarding the species, size composition, and abundance of entrained fish. The Fish Rescue is also an excellent educational opportunity for the many volunteers and participants.
The annual Fish Rescue has grown from its beginnings in 1996 as an inventory of fish and collection of species, length, and weight data. Collection techniques have not changed substantially since the commencement of this project and electrofishing remains the predominant method of capture. Each year, the information collected during the rescue is compared to data from previous Fish Rescues and other related studies.
The Fish Rescue takes place over a period of three to four weeks in September and October each year.
- Western Headworks Canal (WHC) in Calgary
- Women's Coulee Diversion (WCD) west of High River
- Carseland Bow River Headworks Canal (CBRHC) south of Carseland
- Mountain View Leavitt Aetna Headworks Canal (MVLAHC) southwest of Mountain View
- Waterton- Belly Diversion (WBD) southeast of Pincher Creek
- Lethbridge Northern Headworks Canal (LNHC) in the Granum and Fort Macleod area
The overall objectives of the project are to repeat previous Fish Rescue efforts within WHC, WCD, CBRHC, MVLAHC, WBD, and LNHC; salvaging fish from these canals and releasing them into appropriate mainstem systems. More specifically, the goals of the Fish Rescue include:
- Ensuring consistency in sampling sites and methods within each diversion canal;
- Gathering information regarding species composition and abundance in the canals as well as length and weight data;
- Completing a report outlining the findings of the study and providing recommendations for future efforts; and making this report available to the public;
- Encouraging public involvement in the Fish Rescue while facilitating education regarding fish conservation and biology in Alberta;
- Rescuing as many fish as possible.
2012 PROJECT RESULTS:
The 2012 Fish Rescue resulted in the capture of 12,540 sportfish and 24,966 non-sportfish — a total of 37,506 fish were recovered from six irrigation canals in southern Alberta. Eight sport species and eleven non-sport species were captured at Women's Coulee Diversion (WCD), Western Headworks Canal (WHC), Carseland Bow River Headworks Canal (CBRHC), Mountain View Leavitt Aetna Headworks Canal (MVLAHC), Waterton- Belly Diversion (WBD) and Lethbridge Northern Headworks Canal (LNHC).
Mountain Whitefish were found in each of the six canals sampled and was the most abundant fish species captured during the Fish Rescue with 10,386 individuals making up 27.7% of the total catch. Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout were the second and third most abundant sport species collected overall, with 1129 and 455 individuals captured, respectively. These two species represented 3.0% and 1.2% of the total catch, respectively. The remaining sport species captured during the 2012 Fish Rescue included Burbot, Lake Whitefish, Northern Pike, Brook Trout and Bull Trout.
The largest trout captured was a 587 mm (23") (fork length) Brown Trout from Lethbridge Northern Headworks Canal (LNHC) that weighed in at 2598 g (5.7 Lbs).
Longnose dace were the most abundant non-sport species captured during the effort; with 10,022 individuals captured…7787 of those were captured during the first day of sampling at Carseland Bow River Headworks Canal (CBRHC)! longnose suckers and white suckers were the second and third most frequently caught non-sport species, followed by trout-perch, lake chub, mountain suckers, spoonhead sculpins, brook stickleback, northern redbelly dace, fathead minnows and spottail shiners.
Funding for the 2012 Fish Rescue was gratefully provided by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development as well as private donations. In addition, in-kind support was provided by Tim Hortons, Lassonde Western Canada, and Navajo Metals. TUC thanks all those donors and the 358 volunteers that helped us to complete the project.
Not only is the Fish Rescue a worthwhile project, it has proven to be a fascinating biological hands-on field lesson exploring the diversity of stream life for participating children and adults alike.
Please click here (9mg) to download the 2012 Alberta Fish Rescue Summary Report.
For information on how you can take part in this project, or to donate to the Alberta Fish Rescue, contact Lesley Peterson.
2012 Fish Rescue Breakdown By Location
NUMBER OF VOLUNTEERS
NUMBER OF SPORTFISH
NUMBER OF NON-SPORTFISH