Alberta Environment and Park representatives Dominique Primeau and Craig Copeland of the fish wild management department came to Starland County council on Wed. Nov. 11 with insight on how Starland’s two popular natural attractions are doing.
Starland requested a while back that the waters of McLaren Dam and Michichi Reservoir be studied as many fishermen claim ‘there are no fish’ and catch rates remain low.
Primeau is a Species Evaluation Technician who was on the frontlines of the study for both locations last year.
Evaluating stocked water bodies for angler usage, water quality, fish survival and growth rates performed by Fish Culture staff helps area fish biologists manage the fisheries in Alberta.
For McLaren Dam, a low effort camera creel was conducted from May 3 and Oct. 22, 2019 as well as non-lethal netting and trapping methods.
Along with measuring the water quality, temperature dissolved, oxygen and conductivity depth profiles were recorded approximately every two weeks.
Bird cameras were installed at both McLaren and Michichi to determine the number of hours anglers (birds feeding on fish) were seen angling.
A photo was taken once every half hour from sunrise to sunset.
They found that a total of 159.94 angler hours were logged at McLaren, equalling 7.17 angling hours/hectare.
Copeland mentioned this was ‘fairly low’ compared to other stocked water bodies indicating that not a lot of anglers are coming to the water body.
Using the North American Standard Index Netting (NASIN) on April 25, no fish were caught, confirming a low abundance or absence of trout pre stocking (last year’s fish).
Same with August 1, confirming a low abundance of trout post stocking.
The 24-hour minnow traps showed an abundance of Fathead minnows and healthy populations of invertebrates.
The pair of presenters shared that ‘the lack of fish being caught at both reservoirs are due to environmental conditions that need to be corrected to increase sport angling and tourism dollars.’
Maximum water temperatures, minimum dissolved oxygen, NH3 (ammonia) and chlorophyll-a are key water quality variables that influence trout survival.
For McLaren, it was found oxygen levels to be dangerously low at less than 5mg/l at 3 metres and below which were ‘big flags for this dam’.
Total metals showed concentration that are higher than standards at Michichi Reservoir.
Further water testing via a third party for further results in both reservoirs was recommended to improve the quality.
In 2019, Fish Culture stocked in each lake 5,700 20 cm rainbow trout at a cost of $13,224.
As for the Michichi Reservoir, there were many similarities between the two.
On April 25, they did not catch any fish, confirming a low abundance or absence of trout from last year’s fish with similar stocking to McLaren Dam. The same with August 1.
Copeland promised they would help with the annual fishing derby to make it more enticing for those to participate.
One recommendationwas hiring water quality experts to evaluate the cost of a biological treatment plan or mechanical applications (aeration) to improve water quality.
Another was testing McLaren’s reservoir for toxicity by a water quality expert during blooms and the idea of rebuilding boat launch areas at both reservoirs and installing a fishing platform at Michichi.
Many visitors the study group interacted with were told they would like better access to the shoreline.
Talks of there being lots of fertilizer run-off into Michichi was mentioned so it was recommended to reduce this as much as possible to control algae blooms and also planting trees, shrubs and aquatic vegetation around shorelines to improve nutrient interception from neighbouring farming operations.