Bow River Trout Population – 2018 Survey Update

December 2018

Bow River Trout Foundation had the opportunity to meet with Alberta Environment & Parks regional fishery managers in December to review the preliminary findings of the 2018 Bow River Fish Population Survey conducted in September of this year.

IMG_6925The driving force for this year’s survey was to document the current sport fish population following a publication by University of Calgary researcher Chris Cahill. His data analysis indicates that the rainbow trout population decreased by 43 – 50% over a ten-year period from 2003 to 2013. Regardless of the statistical models used for the data analysis, the projected decline of the Bow River rainbow trout population was the same. Considerable debate has taken place within the fishing community as to the reasons for the trout population decline and the variables within the data analysis that may have distorted the outcome.

Needless to say, the results of the 2018 fish population survey have been eagerly awaited. The survey data was generated from the long-term sample sites downstream of Policeman’s Flats and at a large number of additional sites across the Bow River from Bearspaw Dam to Carseland Dam.

The preliminary results indicate that rainbow trout, brown trout and whitefish populations have continued to decline. It also suggests that this decline may well have started as far back as 2003 regardless of flood events and increasing fishing pressure. The data also indicates that the decline is across all age classes. A synopsis of the results will be available in the new year.

The reason for the decline is unknown and the complex nature of a managed water supply, natural events, fish habitat, predators, fishing pressure and the proximity to a large human population add to the many influencers in play.

Alberta Environment and Parks will start a Cumulative Effect Modelling initiative for the Bow River in 2019 to define the major components contributing to the fish population decline. Another fish population survey will likely be conducted in 2019. No change in Bow River fishery management objectives and regulations is expected until further research can determine the cause of the decline.

So, what should the angling community do to aid in the protection of our valuable recreational resource for ourselves and future generations of anglers. Use restraint with your own fishing activities. The Bow River offers excellent fishing opportunities for most of the year. Only you as an individual can decide just how many fish you and your associates need to catch to have an enjoyable day fishing. Consider this when you are casting a line, “The first fish is important, but how many more make it better?”

Also consider supporting local organizations that contribute to the enhancement and protection of the fishery. Bow River Trout Foundation is but one of many. We welcome your support to further our commitment to the Bow River fishery.

In closing, the Bow River is still one of North America’s premium sport fishery, it just needs a little more help to protect a vulnerable trout population.

Bow River Trout Foundation

The State of the Bow River Fishery

The Blue Ribbon Bow River needs your help. Your donation will assist BRT initiatives to monitor fish population dynamics and advocate for fishery management change.


The State of the Bow River Fishery – Water Management Concerns – Update

December 2018:

Bow River Trout Foundation  expressed our concerns to the Government of Alberta (GOA) in October 2017 with the long-term  water management proposals for enhancement of flood and drought control within the Bow River Basin. Priority was given to one of two new dams at either the Morley Indian Reserve or the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and the option to increase storage capacity at Ghost Reservoir. Alberta Environment & Parks Minister, Shannon Phillips gave assurance  that stakeholder engagement would take place if the recommendation for new water management infrastructure were given further  consideration. Unfortunately the GOA has moved forward with a  decision to explore the site options in more detail without considering the full extent of new dams and the environmental integrity of the Bow River.

Bow River Trout Foundation expressed our concerns once again in a letter to Minister Phillips on November 05, 2018. It is our belief that the science behind the recommendations to the Minister was flawed in so far as an environmental impact assessment was not considered. In addition, the consultation process to address the impact of such developments on the social and economic consequence to the river and its water use were given little attention.

The focus of our concerns were directed at the current water management practices and their impact on vulnerable trout populations within the Bow River Basin. A complete assessment of the hydroelectric power generation model needs to be addressed before any further flood and drought management options are considered.

Minister Phillips response was received on December 06, 2018. We are encouraged with future stakeholder engagement opportunities.

Calgary River Access Strategy – November 2018 Update

The Calgary River Access Strategy was approved in February 2017 with a $7.66 million commitment to build new and improve river access sites across the Bow and Elbow River. A Priority 1 Development Budget was approved to develop 5 river access sites within two years. The following development update would indicate three of the sites will be constructed in 2019.

The roll-out of future river access sites will  depend on the current round of Calgary City Council  budget debates.


West Baker Park (at Stoney Tr. NW) – Boat Ramp and Hand Launch


  • August 2017: New gravel overflow parking lot completed and open to public.
  • September 2017: Project allocated to consultant.
  • October 2017: Commenced with initial concept development.
  • November 2017: Finalization of preferred concept. PNSA site assessment complete and initial stakeholder meeting undertaken.
  • January 2018: Completion of 40% detail drawings and Class 4 Cost Estimate. Submitted to Parks for review.
  • May 2018: Scheduled submission of regulatory approval applications.
  • May 2018: Application submitted for Water Act regulatory review.
  • June 2018: Application submitted for Public Lands Act regulatory review.
  • Construction is anticipated by end of Q3 2019.

 Sunnyside (Memorial Dr. at 3rd St. SE) – Hand Launch

  • March 2018: Project site under feasibility review.
  • May 2018: Site analysis and conceptual design completed.
  • June 2018: Design solution finalized.
  • July 2018: Application submitted for Water Act regulatory review.
  • July 2018: Application submitted for Public Lands Act regulatory review.
  • Construction is anticipated by end of Q3 2019.

Inglewood Bridge 12th Street – Boat Ramp and Hand Launch

  • October 2017: project allocated to consultant.
  • November 2017: habitat assessment undertaken of riverbank 100m up and downstream of 12th Street Bridge.
  • December 2017: commenced with draft site analysis and feasibility study.
  • January 2018: adjusted project work schedule, milestones for design and regulatory approvals set for 2018; boat ramp construction set for 2019.
  • February 2018: preliminary site design incorporates the 8th Ave. Lane way proposal. Traffic Study scheduled to analyse site access off 12th St. SE.
  • May 2018: Initial concepts developed.
  • September 2018: Three (3) draft conceptual options finalized.
  • November 2018: Project on hold to ensure adequate funds will be available for 3 priority sites scheduled for construction in 2019. Also, additional time is needed for stakeholder review of the conceptual options and to resolve site specific challenges and competing interests in the project area.

Ogden Bridge (under Deeerfoot Tr SE) – Boat Ramp and Hand Launch

Refinary 14Aug2018 1
New Ogden Bridge River Access Site – River left on the Old Refinery Site
  • November 2017: project allocated to consultant.
  • December 2017: commenced with draft site analysis and established a site safe plan.
  • January 2018: commenced collection of data and background study of site contamination mitigation measures.
  • January 2018: adjusted project work schedule, milestones for design and regulatory approvals set for 2018, boat ramp construction set for 2019.
  • February 2018: Design of site access off Ogden Road is finalized, cost estimate is pending.
  • November 2018: Construction of concrete apron for site access completed.
  • November 2018: Boat ramp’s application submitted for Water Act regulatory review.
  • Construction is anticipated by end of Q3 2019.

The 2019 Blue Ribbon Bow Dinner – Keynote Speaker Russell Thornberry

Bow River Trout Foundation is pleased to announce Russell Thornberry as the Keynote Speaker for the Blue Ribbon Bow Dinner on Wednesday February 20, 2019.

Russell Thornberry wears many different hats in a variety of roles that combine for a most unique and interesting life. He is a renowned author and master storyteller, a gifted songwriter and singer, a seasoned television personality, a professional outdoorsman, an ordained minister and pastor.

Russell is a native of the Lone Star state where he was raised until his late teens. His love of the outdoors eventually led Russell to move to Alberta and build overlapping careers. In addition to his musical efforts, he operated the Bow River Company, the first fly fishing outfitter in Alberta. Russell also pioneered the trophy whitetail hunting industry in western Canada.

While Russell’s career in the outdoors has been largely recognized as hunting- related, his passion for fly-fishing has not gone unnoticed. Always seeking a challenge, Russell decided to pursue the Holy Grail of saltwater fly-fishing, the Atlantic permit, found primarily on the shallow flats of the Caribbean Ocean.

Russell appeared regularly on several national hunting television shows aired on the Outdoor Channel. Russell is in constant demand as a public speaker and entertainer. He travels all over North America to address sportsmen and, in many cases, to entertain with his original music, which has majored of late in humorous, self-penned songs about the hilarious side of the human condition.

BRT 2019 Dinner Logo

  •  When: Wednesday, February 20,  2019
  • Location: The Calgary Petroleum Club, 319 – 5 Avenue SW, Calgary.
  • Time: Cash Bar at 5:00 PM and Dinner 6:30 PM.

Tickets can be purchased on the Bow River Trout website for $150.00.

A table of 6 or 8 guests can be purchased

Buy Now Button

“Click” for more information

Bow River Trout Foundation –

“The Leading Voice for the Bow River Fishery”

The 2019 Blue Ribbon Bow Dinner

BRT 2019 Dinner Logo

  •  When: Wednesday, February 20,  2019
  • Location: The Calgary Petroleum Club, 319 – 5 Avenue SW, Calgary.
  • Time: Cash Bar at 5:00 PM and Dinner 6:30 PM.

Tickets can be purchased on the Bow River Trout website for $150.00.

A table of 6 or 8 can be reserved.

Buy Now Button The dinner’s theme:

BRT Stater of the River 2

“Click” for more information

Bow River Trout Foundation –

“The Leading Voice for the Bow River Fishery”

The Government of Alberta Moves to Add Dams on the Bow River

The Government of Alberta has started the ball rolling to add new dams on the Bow River to aid in flood protection for the City of Calgary and drought protection for water users further downstream.

The project  Bow Basin Water Management Options is a Conceptual Assessment for a new dam at either the Glenbow Ranch or Morley Indian Reserve or the option to expand Ghost Reservoir.

Bow River Trout Foundation has expressed our concerns to the Government of Alberta with new dam construction on the Bow River  Bow River Water Management Plan.

It is hoped that the concerns for the Bow River Fishery will be recognized.

glenbow-ranch-provincial (1)
The Glenbow Ranch

Harvie Passage- A Challenge For Drift Boat Use.

Harvie Passage Low Water Channel (LWC) was developed as a safe passage through the Western Irrigation District (WID) weir in the heart of the City of Calgary, adjacent to Pearce Estate Park. The original development was completed in 2012, but unfortunately the 2013 flood destroyed most of the infrastructure. There was weakness in the original development, whereby safe passage through the weir was problematic. The redevelopment of the site addressed these concerns with a clear directive to make the Low Water Channel safer for all river recreational use. Although the objective was safe through passage, there was a secondary objective to develop the site into a Whitewater Park. The Government of Alberta (GOA) was comfortable that both objectives could be met.

HP Schematic

It was unfortunate that the interests of the fishing community and specifically the use of drift boats were not considered in the early stakeholder consultation process. Bow River Trout Foundation (BRT) engagement with the consulting engineers on the Harvie Passage Project did not take place until 2016, therefore there was little time to make concessions to the design of the LWC to meet the specific needs for drift boat passage.


BRT concerns are centered on the width of each drop chute throughout the LWC.  A drift boat with oars extended is 6.50 meters in width and would have difficulty navigating each LWC drop. Although changes could not be built into the design to meet additional width, it was felt that navigation through the LWC would be possible provided there was a straight run at each drop and no rocks to avoid on entry and exit from each LWC chute. This concept was tested in July 2017 where a low-profile drift boat skiff navigated the LWC with little difficulty.

Access to Harvie Passage was limited to hand launch activities until August 29, 2018 when a temporary public boat ramp was opened at Shouldice Park that made trailered-boat use of the upper city reach of the Bow River possible. This new access gives an additional 22 Km of river to float and fish from a drift boat, including the traverse of Harvie Passage by access to the LWC. Unfortunately, several enhancements to the design of the LWC following the 2017 test days have created potential  hazards. The following photos of LWC Drop 4 illustrate modifications that changed the stream flow to the left of the channel.

Drop 4 2107
Drop 4 2017
Drop 4 2018
Drop 4 2018

It is now difficult for a drift boat with oars extended to navigate Drop 4 and change direction between the two rock deflections on the left side of the channel. There have been incidents where drift boats have hit these rocks, that suggest changes in the design may be needed. Alberta Environment & Parks is aware of these concerns and will monitor the situation next year.

In the meantime it is advisable to scout out the Low Water Channel  before taking a trip.


Other Considerations:

20170426_103040A float through Harvie Passage Low Water Channel is only possible when the Western Irrigation District water sluice-gates are closed from  April to early October. It is hoped that this can be extended until the end of October.


HP Portage

Drift boat use of the HP Portage Channel above the weir is difficult under low flow conditions. It’s too shallow, not wide enough and has very little flow. It needs to be dredged.


Harvie Passage has been a very popular destination water park this year with unexpected use by body and tube floaters. This will only increase next summer constituting even more caution by paddlers and drift boats.