Grayling 2011,2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

2015 project

The 2015 ACA status report can be downloaded here.

Major Initiatives:

  • Volunteer angling and PIT tagging.
  • Joint effort between NLFF/TUC and fisheries staff from AEP/Edson
  • Entered angling results into FWMIS database
  • PIT tagged additional adult grayling
  • Water temperature monitoring, joint effort with AEP.
  • Analyzed data for five-year summary report.

2014 project

A summary of the 2014 project was presented to club member on April 29, 2015.  Guests from NAIT and ESRD also made presentations to the club.

Jim and Ken shared results from year four of the project activities.  The presentation materials can be downloaded here.

Melissa, Chanelle, Tamara, Sarah and Mark are students from NAIT in the Biological Sciences program. They analyzed information from our data loggers, and presented a report titled ‘Thermal Suitability for Arctic Grayling in the Pembina River Watershed’.

Ryan, Mike and Paulette  are fisheries biologists from ESRD in Edson.  They shared some of the findings from a major study in the Pembina River watershed over the past summer.

The 2014 volunteer initiative is year four of a five year project.  We will build upon previous work on streams identified in 2011 – 2013 as having particular conservation value for local Arctic Grayling populations (i.e., currently support remnant populations, and/or suitable habitat). This includes Dismal Creek and Rat Creek, which historically provided high-quality sport fishing for Central Alberta residents. Within these systems we will assess the feasibility, and value to the fishery, of habitat restoration opportunities identified during 2011 – 2013.

We will continue to expand current baseline data on Arctic Grayling distribution, abundance, and habitat quality (programs initiated in 2011). Efforts will include angling, snorkeling, and water temperature monitoring (data loggers). We will continue, and expand, the Arctic Grayling conservation signage program at major stream crossings/access points.

We will also develop an information pamphlet outlining the need for conservation efforts and awareness for distribution to oil/gas and forest industry operators. As a new initiative (deferred from 2013) trained volunteers will assess fish passage and erosion/sedimentation conditions at stream crossings on Dismal Creek using the Alberta Stream Crossing Assessment Protocol. We will employ the turbidity meter purchased through the 2013 ACA grant to characterize the sediment regimes at baseflows and during rainfall events.

All data is being forwarded to ESRD as a contribution to an updated conservation and management strategy for the watershed.  Recognition of the previous phases of this initiative helped the club win the National Recreational Fisheries Award from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2013.

2013 Project

The 2013 final report is here.

The 2013 volunteer initiative will expand the current baseline on Arctic Grayling distribution, abundance, and habitat quality in the Upper Pembina River (UPR) watershed. Since 2011, NLFT/TUC has committed considerable financial and in-kind support to this initiative, and will continue to do so to reach our goal. The data collected is being provided to ESRD as a contribution to an updated conservation and management strategy for the watershed. Volunteer angling to date has been comprehensive and included most of the tributaries with historical records of grayling occupation. In 2013, there will be a greater focus on filling data gaps on streams and stream reaches identified in 2011 and 2012 as having particular conservation importance for local Arctic Grayling populations (i.e., currently support remnant populations, and/or suitable habitat). Notably, this includes Dismal Creek and Rat Creek, which historically provided high-quality sport fishing for residents of Central Alberta.

In 2013, volunteers will drive a systematic angling survey in the project area and install temperature data loggers (in collaboration with local ESRD staff) to gain insight into the current and projected water temperature suitability of streams in the area. As an additional contribution, volunteers will assess fish passage and erosion/sedimentation conditions at stream crossings in the area using the Alberta Stream Crossing Assessment Protocol. Volunteers will also be provided educational opportunities by learning proper handling and identification skills while applying techniques associated with scientific data collection. This is an outreach component of this project that could be used to increase local awareness and improve local angler knowledge.

Objective 1: Water Temperature

  • 28 Onset Hobo Temp data loggers will be installed by volunteers in early June and retrieved in mid-October, 2013;
  • Data loggers will be installed in the Pembina River, Dismal Creek, Rat Creek, Bigoray River, Paddy Creek, Nelson Creek, Zeta Creek, Lovett River, Centre Creek, Crooked Creek, and Hanson Creek. The selected sites will include the sites monitored in 2011/2012 in order to gain insight into year to year variations in water temperature. The selected sites will represent a range of stream types (e.g., low gradient/low elevation versus moderate gradient/higher elevations systems, etc.);
  • An additional water temperature monitoring program will be carried out by ESRD, who will install units in the upper watershed, and
  • Water temperature data will be forwarded to ESRD for analyses and reporting.

Objective 2: Distribution and Abundance

  • Volunteer anglers will visit numerous sites within the project area, focusing on Dismal Creek, Rat Creek, the Pembina River, from spring to fall 2013. The survey will include re-sampling of a portion of the sites angled in 2011/2012 to provide insight into possible year-to-year variability in capture rates and distribution patterns. The scope of this effort will be dependent upon the availability of volunteer anglers. However, our intent is to widen the net for volunteers in 2013 (i.e., to include other NGO’s, educational organizations, industry);
  • Anglers will record angler catch, catch rates (fish/rod h), fish length, and habitat conditions on standardized data forms for transmittal to ESRD and subsequent inclusion in the provincial government FWMIS database. Arctic grayling will be enumerated and measured (fork length to nearest mm) and a tissue sample will be collected for genetic analyses at the University of Alberta using a sampling and preservation protocol provided by the university investigators. Anglers will record all other sport fish captured during the survey in addition to Arctic Grayling (e.g., Northern Pike, Mountain Whitefish, Brook Trout, Burbot, Rainbow Trout, and Bull Trout), and
  • Anglers will geo-reference and photograph all sites with a focus on identifying sites or reaches displaying high quality grayling habitat or adverse land-use issues. A photo diary will be developed to document the project sites.

Objective 3: Road Crossing Assessments

  • Volunteers will evaluate stream crossings in the Dismal Creek and Rat Creek watersheds using the Alberta Stream Crossing Assessment Protocol (Joint GoA/DFO Stream Crossing Assessment Protocol), to identify potential fish passage and erosion – sedimentation issues. NLFT/TUC volunteers will be trained by ESRD staff in the use of the assessment protocol, and
  • The evaluation will include up to 50 sites, and will be carried out during the spring to assess fish passage conditions during the active spawning migration period, and prior to annual vegetation re-growth.

Objectives 4 & 5: Critical Habitats and Movement

  • A fish trap will be installed in Dismal Creek at the Wolf Lake Road crossing for a 10 day period in early to mid-May 2013. The trap will be installed at the site used in 1981 (RL&L Environmental Services, 1981) at which an established upstream spawning of grayling was confirmed. The trap will be installed and monitored by volunteers from NLFT/TUC, Golder Associates and University of Alberta;
  • Captured Arctic Grayling will be enumerated and measured (fork length, weight), and a tissue sample will be collected for genetic analysis at the University of Alberta;
  • Other fish species encountered at the site will be enumerated, measured, and released;
  • Arctic Grayling will be tagged using PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags and released upstream;
  • PIT-tagged fish will be recaptured in Dismal Creek and potentially in the Pembina River during a volunteer-based angling program, focusing on areas known to support grayling during the June – September period and areas with suitable spawning characteristics (based on 2011/2012 volunteer angling data and supporting FWMIS data. Fish biologists or trained volunteer anglers will be provided with a hand-held PIT-tag reader. A stationary array (provided at no cost by Golder Associates) will be installed at an access site upstream of the fish trap to continuously monitor fish movement, and
  • Fish biologists and trained volunteers will conduct several snorkelling surveys in the upper Pembina River and Dismal Creek to identify overwintering pools during September and October, 2013.

Miscellaneous

  • Coordinate the NLFT/TUC project with ESRD fisheries staff during all phases of the project (planning, implementation, and reporting) to ensure that the data collected will complement the provincial government sampling program planned for the Pembina River watershed in 2013, and

Provide data that can be used by ESRD to identify possible relationships between water temperature regime and habitat suitability of various streams and stream reaches for Arctic Grayling (current conditions and with future Climate Change); using HOBO Temp Data Logger data from 2011,2012 and 2013.

2012 Project Report (warning, large file)

NLFT-TU 2013 Pembina River PPT

2012 Project, funded by Alberta Conservation Association

The major purpose of the project will be to update the current data base on Arctic Grayling distribution and abundance in the Upper Pembina River (UPR) watershed. The UPR watershed is roughly defined as the main river and tributaries upstream of Highway 16, but with a greater focus on waters upstream of Cynthia and Lodgepole. Historically, streams in this area provided high-quality sport fishing for residents of Central Alberta. For a variety of reasons, many of the grayling populations have been extirpated and those that remain are in a precarious state. NLFT/TUC has committed financial and in-kind support to assist SRD (Fish & Wildlife) in conserving the remaining stocks and identifying opportunities to restore former populations. Volunteers (target of 50 anglers and 50 sites for 2012) will undertake a systematic angling survey at designated sites located on 10 tributaries, and on the main Pembina River. Sites angled in 2011 (23), the first year of the survey (which was funded by NLFT/TUC) will be repeated to provide confirmation. NLFT/TUC will also install water temperature data loggers (in collaboration with SRD) to gain insight into the temperature suitability of streams in the project area (now and with Climate Change). Fifteen data loggers were purchased by NLFT/TUC in 2011 (13 installed) and an additional 15 units are being provided by this group in 2012. Temperature data collected in 2012 will be forwarded to SRD for analysis and interpretation and will be included in their Arctic Grayling status report for the project area.

 

2012 Objectives

1. To evaluate current distribution and relative abundance of Arctic Grayling in the main Pembina River and tributaries, with particular reference to stream/reaches that formerly supported populations (i.e., based on published reports, the FWMIS data base, anecdotal reports, etc.).

2. To describe habitat conditions at sampling locations, and stream crossings used to access these sites, which will contribute to an assessment of the current potential of the UPR basin for supporting grayling.

3. To assess water temperature regimes in the various study streams and reaches as a means of determining habitat suitability for Arctic Grayling.

4. To collect representative fish tissue samples from Arctic Grayling in the watershed, as a contribution to the DNA profiling initiative being undertaken by the University of Alberta.

5. To assist, through volunteer efforts, in the identification of sites and opportunities for habitat and/or population restoration in the Pembina River watershed.

6. To identify potential sites (with adequate densities to serve as possible sources for restoration stocking) for future reference and follow-up by SRD.

2012 Activities and Methodology

1. Conduct a volunteer angling survey in the Upper Pembina River (mainstem and tributaries) during the spring to fall period in 2012; the survey will include re-sampling of the 23 sites angled in 2011 (to provide insight into possible year-to-year variability in capture rates and distribution patterns); the survey will be expanded to include tributaries and tributary reaches that were not sampled in 2011 (approximately 25 new sites).

2. Record angler catch, catch rates (fish/rod h), fish length and habitat conditions on standardized data forms for transmittal to SRD and subsequent inclusion in the provincial government data base.

3. Collect pelvic fin tissue samples for genetic analyses/DNA profiling at the University of Alberta, using a sampling and preservation protocol provided by the university investigators.

4. Geo-reference and photograph all angling sites with a focus on identifying sites or reaches displaying high quality grayling habitat or adverse land-use issues.

5. Monitor water temperatures in the main Pembina River and selected tributaries (Bigoray River, Paddy Creek, Rat Creek, Dismal Creek, Nelson Creek, Zeta Creek, Lovett River, Center Creek, Crooked Creek, Hanson Creek) using Onset Hobo Temp data loggers; 30 units will be installed during the period early June to mid October, 2012; the sites selected will include the 13 sites monitored in 2011 in order to gain insight into year-to-year differences in water temperature due to stream flow and weather conditions; the water temperature monitoring program will be carried out in collaboration with SRD who are planning a comprehensive electrofishing program in the Upper Pembina River watershed targeting young-of-the-year and juvenile age classes of Arctic Grayling (i.e., size classes not susceptible to angling); water temperature data will be forwarded to SRD for analyses and reporting.

6. Evaluate stream crossings accessed during the angling survey using the Alberta Stream Crossing Assessment Protocol (Joint GoA/DFO Stream Crossing Assessment Protocol), to identify potential fish passage and erosion – sedimentation issues; SRD will provide training in the use of the protocol to the NLFT/TUC volunteers.

7. Enumerate, measure (fork length to nearest mm) and record all other sport fish captured during the survey in addition to Arctic grayling (i.e., likely to include Northern Pike, Mountain Whitefish, Brook Trout, and Burbot, and possibly Rainbow Trout and Bull Trout);

8. Coordinate the NLFT/TUC project with SRD fisheries staff during all phases of the project (planning, implementation, reporting) to ensure that the data collected will complement the provincial government sampling program planned for the Pembina River watershed in 2012;

9. Provide data that can be used by SRD to identify possible relationships between water temperature regime and habitat suitability of various streams and stream reaches for Arctic Grayling (current conditions and with future Climate Change); using HOBO Temp Data Logger data from 2011 and 2012;

2011 Arctic Grayling Symposium

Trout Unlimited Canada, Golder Associates, and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (Fish & Wildlife), in association with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Department of Renewable Resources (University of Alberta), Alberta Conservation Association and the American Fisheries Society (Mid-Canada Chapter), will be hosting a two day symposium & workshop on the Conservation of Arctic Grayling.

The event will be held in Grande Prairie, Alberta, June 7-9, 2011.  More details about the symposium can be found on the TU Canada Website.

Volunteer Creel Survey

A proposal is in the works to have Northern Lights Fly Tyers/TU Edmonton club members get involved in a creel survey to determine the present distribution and status of Arctic Grayling in athe Pembina River Watershed.

A DRAFT version of the proposal follows:

Background

The Pembina River drainage represents the most southerly distribution of Arctic Grayling (not including stocked lake populations in Kananaskis, and a possible remnant population in the Belly River) in Alberta, and Canada. Prior to the development of the Pembina Oilfield in the 1950’s which resulted in extensive oil & gas development and a rapid increase in road access, the Pembina River and its tributaries supported high quality grayling fisheries. Several of these populations persisted well into the 1970’s and 1980’s. A smaller number of streams continued to provide grayling fishing into the 1990’s. A joint study by the Alberta Fish & Wildlife (AF&W) and the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) in 2002 and 2003 indicated that grayling populations in the watershed had probably collapsed. Current populations, should they persist, are likely to be highly fragmented and extremely susceptible to complete extirpation.

Purpose

In keeping with the mission statement of Trout Unlimited Canada (“To conserve, protect & restore Canada’s freshwater and coldwater resources for current and future generations”), the Northern Lights Chapter will be attempting to determine the current distribution and population status of Arctic grayling in the Upper Pembina River mainstem and its tributaries in 2001 (possibly 2012). To achieve this, Chapter members will carry out a volunteer angling survey using a systematic and well-organized sampling approach. The sampling program will be reviewed an approved by the AF&W to ensure that the information collected can be used by provincial fishery managers to better understand the current status of grayling populations in the watershed, and assist in developing effective protection and restoration measures.

Study Area

The size of the study area and the level of sampling effort will depend on the number of volunteer anglers that participate in the project. For preliminary planning purposes we are basing our project on a minimum of 30 volunteer anglers, with corresponding funding support from TUC to cover equipment needs and expenses (outlined below). With this level of volunteer support it would be our intent to cover the top priority streams and stream reaches in the Upper Pembina River watershed (roughly defined as all waters upstream of Lodgepole/Sec. Highway 753). This would include tributaries such as the Lovett River, Centre Creek, Dismal Creek, Rat Creek, Nelson Creek, Paddy Creek, and several unnamed streams as well as the mainstem Pembina River. Due to the size of the area, we will focus our angling efforts on streams and reaches of streams that provide suitable habitat characteristics and have historically supported grayling populations (i.e., based on FWMIS data, previous fisheries reports and angling experiences of Chapter members).

Sampling Approach

Prior to the opening of the 2011 angling season (Zone ES3; streams open from June 16 – October 31; Pembina River upstream of Highway 40 opens June 16 closes August 31, downstream of Highway 40 to S.H. 753/Lodgepole opens April 1 closes October 31), Thirty stream reaches will be determined and geo-referenced (GPS coordinates) using air photos and GIS mapping procedures. Anglers will be paired for health & safety reasons, and each pair (15 pairs) will be assigned two stream reaches for survey angling during the summer field period (June 16 to August 16). Some streams and stream reaches will be scheduled for sampling during the early part of the season (e.g., small tributaries that may only support grayling during the spawning and early post-spawning period), while others will be scheduled for later in the summer (e.g., the Pembina River mainstem when during periods of lower flow).

Volunteer anglers will be provided creel survey forms developed by the AF&W. Data recorded will include the hours fished, type of gear used, numbers and size of grayling (and other fish species) captured, location of fishing effort (GPS coordinates), water temperature, photographs of representative habitat, and an adipose fin clip to enable future genetic profiling. The information will be summarized and forwarded to the AF&W following the angling season.

In addition to their personal fishing gear, anglers will be provided maps, clip¬boards, GPS units with previously programmed coordinates for their assigned survey locations, digital read-out thermometers, digital cameras, tape measures, and a sampling kit for clipping and storing adipose fin clips. Anglers will be expected to provide their own survival (food and water, insect repellent) and first aid gear (with the exception of bear spray and/or other bear scare devices). Health & Safety protocols and expectations will be discussed with participants, a H&S Plan will be filed for each individual trip, and a rigid call-in procedure will be adhered to.

Estimated costs

The volunteer anglers will be compensated for fuel used during the surveys; all other expenses will be covered by the volunteer. TUC will cover the purchase of to 5 to 10 GPS units, 20 water temperature thermometers, 5 to 10 digital cameras, 15 tape measures, and 15 sampling kits for collecting/storing adipose clips. The cost of conducting the study will depend on the number of volunteers participating but based on 30 volunteers we are anticipating the need for up to $10,000 in funding.