The 2022 Fisheries Engagement Survey is live on-line. You have until noon on February 7, 2022 to weigh in. This round of engagement has something for all anglers; trout and walleye, fly and gear, recreational and guides.
We're going to touch on question one from the survey. Bear with us - we're pretty passionate about this. Question one of the survey is focused on "Alberta’s Proposed Approach to Protecting Fish During Periods of Low Flow and High Temperatures." The extended "Heat Dome" of 2021 provided the perfect catalyst for this discussion. In fairness, it's a discussion that's long overdue.
Who remembers the one-time emergency river closure in 2015? If you don't here's a quick summary... We had an extended period of high air temperatures coupled with mid-summer (lower) flow rates and no rainfall. The "perfect storm" to trigger an emergency closure. But the process to get that closure took time and a "Ministerial Order" in order to happen which meant the "storm" had pretty much passed by the time it happened. (I recall there being snow in the forecast by the end of the closure period.)
Fast forward a year or two and know that Alberta Environment and Parks along with volunteers from the angling community (Dave Jensen, Nancy Storwick) work toward a responsive Trout and Drought Policy that's based on tracking ambient air temperature, flow rates, and water temperatures which would trigger partial or full closures once certain thresholds are reached.
This policy has not been adopted. And while it's likely not perfect - it requires conditions to be monitored and for an ability to react to the information available - it is responsive to conditions as they happen.
Along comes 2021 as that policy document continues to gather dust; a year that's memorable because it was a hotter summer than most of us ever remember having in Southern Alberta. Pair those high temperatures with the ongoing adjusted dam operations for flood mitigation and you have a summer spent fishing while being acutely aware of water temperatures.
While we and other Alberta outfitters encouraged most of our guide clients to voluntarily fish "hoot owl" hours (early a.m. to early afternoon) for much of the summer, and had MANY conversations with customers to encourage similar habits, no formal emergency closure was implemented. In late June, AEP posted an announcement to MyWildAlberta asking anglers to pay attention to water temperatures and urging them to fish alternative fisheries, but were otherwise pretty quiet about the situation.
From August 2021 through the start of 2022 anglers have continued having discussions with peers, with AEP biologists, and with members of the AOGAA and other organizations about the lengthy heat dome and ways the fishery might have been better managed.
Then we opened this survey.
To be frank, the options presented to manage future low flow high temperature situations felt like a punch in the gut.
- Option One: Effective July 1 through the end of August - Hoot Owl restrictions - no fishing between 2pm and midnight regardless of air and water temperature or stream flow.
- Option Two: Hoot Owl restrictions starting July 1 and possibly being removed three weeks later if conditions allow. (But no explanation of what would trigger that opening and no opportunity to close again if conditions worsen.)
- Option Three: Continue as is.
- Option Four: No Opinion.
This seems like a good way to garner a lot of "no opinion" or "continue as is".
To be clear - we support closures/restrictions if conditions warrant. Other trout jurisdictions on both sides of the Canada/US border often put hoot owl restrictions in place when required AND they lift those restrictions when conditions allow. The message from AEP is that Alberta's legislation won't allow for that approach. It's time to change this legislation.
Whatever your thoughts are, we encourage you to participate in the survey. Ask your angling friends, industry pros, check out comments on Alberta fishing forums... get informed and then weigh in!
Here's the link....