Alberta anglers fear stream closures coming; blame industry, recreation

EDMONTON — Some Alberta anglers are worried that the province is about to ban the sport in a number of popular rivers and say they are taking the fall for the government’s failure to deal with the effects of heavy industrial and recreational use.

“Anglers are being used as a scapegoat for what we see as broader problems,” Jordan Pinkster of the Alberta Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said Wednesday.

Pinkster said government officials outlined their plans to concerned groups at recent meetings.

“The plan talked a little bit about some of the habitat implications, but the real focal point is the angling closures,” he said. ”It’s the only thing they had any concrete information on.”

The proposed five year closures could include some of Alberta’s best trout streams such as the Ram, the Clearwater and the Kakwa rivers. It could also include popular rivers such as the North Saskatchewan.

A provincial spokesman confirmed consultations have been held.

“Alberta Environment and Parks routinely consults on changes to fishing regulations each year,” said department spokesman Matt Dykstra.

“No decisions regarding potential closures have been made at this time.”

Duane Radford, former fisheries director for the anglers, said it’s not fair to shut down a catch-and-release fishery when the real issue is sedimentation caused by roads, stream crossings, logging, random camping and off-highway vehicles.

“What the sediment amounts to is a death warrant for fish,” said Radford. ”It just reduces the overall productivity of a stream.

“If they have a problem, it’s primarily related to habitat issues, not angling.”

Previous studies have outlined problems in Alberta’s fish-spawning rivers. In 2015, a study found virtually all southern Alberta streams that spawn native trout were threatened by industrial development or overuse.

Scientists suggest land that contains trout streams shouldn’t have more than just over half a kilometre of trail, cutline or road per square kilometre. The 2015 study found disturbance density in parts of the Oldman River watershed was nearly 10 times that.

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