What a dry Alberta summer could mean for fishing enthusiasts

Waterways and lakes in Alberta could look a little more green this summer if the historic drought continues, and that could mean less opportunities for anglers.

The Province of Alberta has already posted angling advisories for ES1, ES2, and PP1 — west, south, and including the City of Calgary.

At current, the advisory recommends that anglers only fish in stocked ponds and lakes — avoiding creeks and rivers — and aiming to get out in the morning due to cooler water temperatures.

Glenn Heather is the Habitat Chair for the Alberta Wildlife Federation, he says if the drought persists it will be a bad year to be a fish in Alberta.

“There’s less water, therefore the water is going to heat up,” he explained. “The water being hotter, therefore that really stresses out fish for their spawning, for their day to day activity, [and] in the afternoons the water will heat up even more.”

He also points out that much of the water fish live in is also used for irrigation.

“It could be quite catastrophic — we are all based on reservoirs in the south country, generally they are irrigation reservoirs,” Heather said. “We’re going to have a balance of having to irrigate land, plus having enough water in the lakes to survive for the fish.”

In Calgary, aforementioned stocked ponds are adjusting their orders to prep for the drought.

Christie Springs is the general manager for the Lake Sundance Resident’s Association, and says part of their drought strategy is to stock fish varieties that are larger and more temperature tolerant as they anticipate warmer water. Plus, she says bigger fish are harder for the birds to pick off.

She adds that they are also anticipating more plants in the lake as the water drops.

“You’ll probably have to pick your feet up a little quicker and a little further before you get into deep water,” Springs said. “So like, being tickled by the aquatic plants would be something you would notice, but it wouldn’t be something we would close the lake for.”

She explains that part of Lake Sundance’s algae control strategy is using science to control what nutrients are in the lake. Heather says this could be a problem in irrigation canals in southern Alberta this year.

“For Algae bloom, there’s a couple of factors, the temperature of the water again. As far as nitrates that can get in the ground from nitrates or manure — or whatever — algae just loves that,” Heather explained. “It loves the warmth of the water.

“In rivers, as long as there is flowing water it’s going to prevent the algae from kind of taking over. However, on stagnant lakes that aren’t getting a flow of water in, it is the perfect conditions for algae growth. And then of course, we have blue green algae that is very detrimental for wildlife completely. So this year, it is a possibility we could end up with a very tough year.”

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