Calgarians wade in to see how trout are recovering after 2013 flood: ‘We should care about the fish’

Calgarians wade in to see how trout are recovering after 2013 flood: 'We should care about the fish’

It was a day to pull on waders and climb into inflatable rafts for members of the Calgary River Valley group.

People with the non-profit community group headed into the Elbow River on Friday for their annual count of brown trout spawning spots.

How the trout are doing is an important indication of the health of Calgary’s waterways.

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“In the fall, brown trout from the Bow River swim up the Elbow River to spawn,” fisheries biologist Chris Bjornson said. “And what they’re looking for is shallow, swift-flowing water over gravel.”

The gravel plays a very important role in successful spawning.

“When they spawn they actually build a nest in the gravel,” Bjornson said. “[The female trout] excavates a depression in the gravel, lays her eggs and then covers those up with more gravel.”

The fish are gradually recovering in the aftermath of the huge 2013 flood in southern Alberta.

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The increased volume of water washed away much of the gravel in the Elbow River, making it tougher for fish to spawn.

As a result, the numbers of brown trout have been down in recent years.

Those numbers have slowly been bouncing back since the flood, an encouraging sign of the improving health of the Elbow River ecosystem, according to one of the people who took part in Friday’s count.

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“We should care about the fish, we should care about the entire aqua-sphere,” Sabrina Figliomeni said. “In the tropics, everyone’s caring about the coral. This is our coral, this is our water body that we should be caring about.”

People involved in the count are also encouraged that the city and provincial governments have been adding gravel to the Elbow River, to provide more potential spawning spots for the brown trout.

“This year it’s going to be very interesting to see what those areas look like and whether the fish are using them,” Bjornson said. “By looking at the amount of spawning each year, we can see what’s happening with the population, whether it’s increasing or decreasing.”