I have taken an interest in the Stewardship program over the last few years and decided to take part this year. I had already done the written test and last Saturday and yes people do fail the ID test. We did our first outing of the season to properly identify species and qualify for Stewardship licensing. There have been some vocal negative remarks online about the program but I have to say, given the visual proof I saw this is a more than worthwhile program.
I’ve been in Alberta since 80’ and just in that time span I have seen a swing in species domination on some of the stream I love. The native and naturally producing Cuttthroat and Bull Trout population on some small streams has been affected by Brook Trout, in this case a non native and evasive species that out eat and out breed our natural species.
The first part of Saturday’s program was an electrofishing survey that we where all involved in. Leslie from Trout Unlimited who was running the program was great going over what was expected of us all and stressing safety. We ran a section of the creek collecting Trout and categorizing by sorting into different buckets. Great care and respect was given to all species, which impressed me.
The focus was for everyone to ID the different Trout based on criteria so we could quickly spot the species. Care was taken with each person so we could take advantage of all information offered. There where great on-stream discussion ongoing on everything from bug life to habitat and habits. I have to say it was a fun afternoon and even this old Dude was able to learn a thing or two.
It was easy to see the problem by the huge number of Brook Trout compared to the very few Cutthroats. The stats are below, and are really telling.
- 33 Brook Trout
- 10 Rainbow Trout
- 4 Mountain Whitefish
- 0 Cutthroat Trout
After the fish survey was over we received our last instruction on how to record our catch streamside and follow the details needed every time we did an outing (Paperwork needs to be done during each fishing trip with species, location, etc. recorded) keeping within legal boundaries. This is not an ad hock system and you certainly can fail testing at the various stages. The result is knowledgeable fishermen who are helping balance a system naturally. There where a few Cutties taken but it was low. Only 5 out of the 100 Trout taken by angling where Cutthroats., you can immediately see the offset balance in evasive species.
I came away with a deep respect for the program people involved and what it needs to accomplish. Here are a few pictures of the day.