Protecting bull trout

It didn’t really need one more headline to convince anyone that we are into a plague of public and private vandalism against trout streams. But the front page Mary-Ann Barr story, “Trout Stream at Risk,” and shocking pictures in the August 22nd issue of The Red Deer Advocate hit me hard, reviving long-lost memories of a former paradise that is now being destroyed.

It didn’t really need one more headline to convince anyone that we are into a plague of public and private vandalism against trout streams.

But the front page Mary-Ann Barr story, “Trout Stream at Risk,” and shocking pictures in the August 22nd issue of The Red Deer Advocate hit me hard, reviving long-lost memories of a former paradise that is now being destroyed.

The sub-head to The Advocate’s story offers a good summary: “People illegally driving their off-highway vehicles near Fall Creek are damaging an important bull trout spawning area.”

Ahhhh … Fall (or Falls) Creek. Many years ago, about this time of year, a few anglers would find their way in to the alpine meadow creek that is a tributary to the Ram River.

Once in a while someone would have to lug an early spawner, 10 lbs. or so, out of there.

The trick was getting in there … the first time.

Rumour had it that the odd gent or two had driven their 4WD rigs (ATVs had not yet been misbegotten) in there with only minor mechanical damage.

But most of us had to know from the sworn testimony of a trusted someone who had hiked in, exactly where it was that you parked your rig to get started on the maze of intersecting cut lines and trails.

I hiked twice into Fall Creek. On the two trips I averaged three hours each way, but that was because of the number of wrong turns and supposed “shortcuts” on the first trip. On the second trip in, I had spare time to catch dozens of juvenile bull trout, but no big spawners yet, in a gorgeous little bull trout stream that reminded me of Elk Creek (tributary to the Clearwater River) before they turned in the cattle and planted brown trout.

Now, aided and abetted by a Sunpine Forest Products logging road, the hopeless ATV addicts are easily, literally, and illegally getting into Fall Creek, disturbing and silting its spawning gravels, slowly, relentlessly and inevitably destroying an important bull trout spawning and rearing stream for the lower Ram River (below the falls) and the connected North Saskatchewan and Clearwater Rivers.

Alberta’s fish emblem, the bull trout, may be a big, tough, rough critter, but its fatal flaw is that, to survive as a species, it needs cold, clear water and silt-free gravels in which to spawn, and until we identify and protect the critical spawning streams, the ultimate extinction of the bull trout in Alberta is inevitable.

The bull trout has one other fatal flaw: appetite; he, or she’d swallow herself tail-first, but I’m aware of only one Alberta bull trout spawning and rearing stream where that became a problem. Back in the early ’50s too many people were taking 20 per day possession limits of 10-to-14 inch bull trout from the North Fork of the Belly River until few were left.

Eventually it was discovered that the North Fork was the key spawning and rearing stream for bull trout in the entire Belly River system, and several jurisdictions, Alberta, Parks Canada, Glacier Park, the state of Montana and the Blood Nation combined to close it to angling.

Recently Hidden Creek has been much in the news, the key bull trout spawning-rearing stream for the Oldman River watershed having been seriously damaged for those purpose by rapacious clearcut logging practices. Expect the ATV mud-bogging boneheads to move in and finish the job.

The Muskeg River, arguably Alberta’s finest bull trout river, has been destroyed, first by a government too gutless to stop native poaching, and now mindless energy and forestry is destroying the river, again to be followed by the ATV army.

Surely, if we know the relatively few small headwaters streams where our threatened and endangered provincial fish is spawned and reared, it is long past time that we totally closed them and their general areas to what is destroying them: rapacious energy and forestry practices and those who enjoy, but destroy our outdoors, but only while transported and enthroned on their Kamikaze 500s.

While considering closed areas and bans, we should not forget the jet boaters who, with their nautical cocktail lounges, are churning up the spawning gravels and disturbing the peace of other users of our larger rivers, floaters, paddlers, and anglers.

I have accepted that there are cherished places I’ll never see again because I can’t walk. But I don’t even want to see — or fish — Fall Creek again in the shape it’s in: being destroyed by big-butted boneheads on noisy, smelly ATVs.

We have to get back to where there are places so precious, known bull trout spawning streams, for starters, that they are reserved for upright outdoors people who get there by the tiny environmental footprint of their own muscle power.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at bscam@telusplanet.net.

Just Posted

Bowden Institution Black Press file photo
Bowden Institution inmate dies from COVID-19 complications

Bowden death the sixth in Canada’s federal prison system

(Contributed)
FOUND: Red Deer youth missing

Red Deer RCMP thank the public for their assistance

President Joe Biden delivers remarks about COVID vaccinations in the South Court Auditorium at the White House, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Biden team moves swiftly to tackle pipeline political peril

Executive order issued to improve cybersecurity

Street racers gather the evening of Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, in the parking lot of the Goodwill on Northeast Marine Drive and 122nd Avenue in Portland, Ore. Across America, police are confronting illegal drag racing whose popularity has surged since the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns began. Drivers have blocked off roads to race and to etch donut patterns on pavement with the tires of their souped-up cars. From Portland, Oregon; to Albuquerque, New Mexico; from Nashville, Tennessee; to New York City, officials are reporting a dangerous, and sometimes deadly, uptick in street racing. (Anna Spoerre /The Oregonian via AP)
US cities see surge in deadly street racing amid pandemic

Shutdowns associated with the pandemic cleared normally clogged highways

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and several members of city council helped kick off the spring Green Deer cleanup campaign on Wednesday. Veer said city workers do their best to keep the city looking good, but need volunteer help to get rid of litter that has blown into bushes onto road sides over the winter. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)
Red Deer city councillors launch spring Green Deer campaign

Volunteers are needed to keep the city looking good

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew with teammates from left, forward Tsubasa Endoh, defender Omar Gonzalez and forward Patrick Mullins during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Bradley, Altidore scores in Toronto FC’s 2-0 win over Crew

ORLANDO, Fla (AP) — Michael Bradley had a goal and an assist,… Continue reading

A football with the CFL logo sits on a chair during a press conference in Winnipeg, Friday, November 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Former defensive lineman Klassen tackling retirement as he did opposing quarterbacks

Klassen spent seven CFL seasons with Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa

FILE - Contestant Lauren Spencer-Smith on an episode of ABC’s American Idol. (American Idol/ABC photo)
‘American Idol’ contestant exits show amid video controversy

A 16-year-old “American Idol” contestant has dropped out of the singing competition… Continue reading

FILE - Ellen DeGeneres appears during a taping of the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” in Burbank, Calif. on May 24, 2016. DeGeneres, who has seen ratings hit after allegations of running a toxic workplace, has decided her upcoming season next year will be the last. It coincides with the end of her contract. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
Ellen DeGeneres to end long-running TV talk show next year

Viewership dropped by 1.1 million people this season

Ottawa Senators centre Josh Norris, right, celebrates his game-winning overtime goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with left wing Brady Tkachuk Wednesday May 12, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, holds up the trophy after beating Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, in the final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament, in Montreal on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Philadelphia Flyers' Travis Sanheim (6) and Brian Elliott (37) celebrate with teammates after the Flyers won an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

FILE - John Davidson, left, president of the New York Rangers, and Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton pose at a news conference in New York, in this Wednesday, May 22, 2019, file photo. The New York Rangers abruptly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 with three games left in the season. Chris Drury was named president and GM. He previously served as associate GM under Davidson and Gorton. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

Most Read