Gearing up to tackle Family Fishing Weekend

Since 2001, Alberta has had two annual Family Fishing Weekends – an opportunity to grab your friends and family and try your hand at fishing – no licence required! While sportfishing regulations still apply, this is a great chance to get outside and reconnect with Alberta’s amazing lakes, rivers and streams, and the fish that call them home.

Family Fishing Weekend will run from February 15-17 in 2020. You’re off the hook for a licence on Family Fishing Weekend, so we encourage you to sit back, drop a line, and make memories with your friends, families, and maybe even someone new!

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Photo Credit: Curtis Nichol

The angling community is well known for welcoming newcomers and sharing their sport. If you don’t feel comfortable heading out on the ice alone (or don’t have your own equipment), find an event hosted by the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) or a local fish and game organization so your family can learn directly from the experts! For the avid anglers out there, we hope you’ll share all of your best tips and tricks with new anglers who are eager to try a new sport.

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Photo Credit: Vanessa Sherburne

If you are ready to head out onto the ice, check out the sportfishing regulations for your fishing spot and ice fishing tips in this video, or visit My Wild Alberta for more important information.

Leading up to the February Family Fishing Weekend, we’ll be sharing some great information to make sure everyone has a fun and safe weekend. We hope you enjoy the weekend responsibly angling, spending time with friends and family, and exploring the great outdoors!

Looking for more ways to participate?

  • Send in a photo to ACA’s Ice Fishing Photo Contest
  • Attend a local event – We’ll be sharing information about events across the province all week on our social media platforms! You can always start with the ACA’s Kids Can Catch Events.
  • Download the AlbertaRELM App and get ready to buy your fishing licence starting on March 14 for the 2020/2021 fishing season, which kicks off April 1! While you’re on AlbertaRELM, why not snap up one of the undersubscribed Special Harvest Licences for walleye, still available at Lac Ste. Anne, Pigeon Lake or Seibert Lake?

 

Chinese mystery snail in Alberta: a very spe-shell case

By Paige Kuczmarski, Alberta Environment and Parks

Although this isn’t our regular snail’s pitch of stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) with “Clean, Drain, Dry” or “Don’t let it Loose”, we still need your undivided attention! We were shell-shocked to find our first location of the invasive Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis) in Alberta this year in McGregor Lake! This species is one of 52 prohibited species listed on the Fisheries (Alberta) Act, meaning we must fight tooth and snail to slow this species from spreading. We need you to come out of your shell and help us with ANY information, such as dates, photos or locations of Chinese mystery snail you may have seen in the past few years. A photo was shared with us showing two people holding up the large snail shells, which gives us reason to believe it has been here since 2016.

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This snail is very noticeable with a large, globular shell that can reach sizes of 6 cm. Distinct sutures and fine growth lines on the brown to olive colored shell also help with identification. Chinese mystery snail can be found buried in soft muddy or sandy substrates in freshwater lakes, streams and rivers. This species of snail can tolerate less than ideal conditions and survive out of water for up to 4 weeks due to the protection provided by an operculum or ‘trap-door’ – this alone warrants concern for further spread through transportation of watercrafts or gear.

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In a nutshell, Chinese mystery snail is named after its mysterious reproductive abilities of giving birth to fully developed juvenile snails, which can happen as many as 169 time per year! This species can impact the growth and abundance of native snail species by competing for habitat and resources, as well as effect water intake pipes and other submerged equipment as their large shells can clog and stop water flow. Furthermore, Chinese mystery snail are considered edible and often sold in Chinese food markets despite it being an intermediate host to multiple parasites that could impact human health. Basically, its ability to rapidly reproduce, tolerate unfavorable conditions and out-compete native species shows that Chinese mystery snails have all the characteristics that make a species highly invasive – any details you may have would help us before this population spirals out of control!

Always remember:

  • To avoid snail mail! Always report aquatic invasive species through EDDMapS Alberta or directly through email, ais@gov.ab.ca or by phone, 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).
  • Don’t be shell-fish! Don’t let it loose – never release live animals, plants or aquarium water into the environment.
  • Take it slow! Always Clean, Drain, Dry your gear before moving between waterbodies.
  • If it’s a mystery to you, learn to identify Alberta’s 52 prohibited aquatic invasive species using our pocket guide.Lake McGregor 2019 NK_0041.JPG

Playing by the rules; responsible pet ownership is a game changer

Responsible pet ownership is the name of the game when purchasing a new pet (or even a plant), and invasive species are the bad guys. Habitat, food and lifestyle are essential to know, but now you need to make sure your new pet isn’t trying to cheat the game by disguising themselves as an invasive species. Thankfully, the aquatic invasive species (AIS) team are no newbies when it comes to playing this game!

Just last December, a Fort McMurray woman purchased a pair of incorrectly identified turtles advertised on social media in Gibbons. After she brought home what she thought were four-month-old Sawback turtles, it was discovered that they were actually map turtles (Genus Graptemys), an invasive species in Alberta. This species is listed in the Wildlife Regulation as well as the Communicable Diseases Regulation (Alberta Health Ministry) as they can carry salmonella bacteria which can result in fever or diarrhea, sometimes even death to humans. It is illegal to buy, sell or own map turtles in Alberta.

Map Turtle

Its not just misidentification of species that can cause issues for single players in this game, sometimes stores receive the wrong species to sell! This summer, the AIS team discovered two prohibited species under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act – Fanwort and Oriental Weather Loach – being sold at a large pet store chain. The Oriental Weather Loach was for sale under its alternate name Dojo Loach, and the Fanwort was listed as a Green Cabomba plant. If you’ve purchased either of these two species, call the AIS Hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).

Whether you’re on the winning streak of pet ownership or just learning the rules, it’s important to be the game changer in this world full of players!

Hot gaming tips:

  1. Don’t be a noob! Before buying an aquatic pet, plant or invertebrate, doing a quick google search for the scientific name of the species can help you understand if the species is prohibited. A great place to start is Alberta’s prohibited species list.
  2. When it’s game over, take appropriate measures to protect the environment.
    • If you don’t want your pet anymore… Don’t let it loose! Many aquarium plants, fish and pets we purchase are not native to our ecosystem and if released, can cause harm to the environment. Donate your unwanted pet to a friend or return it to the pet store.
    • When the sad day comes that your pet dies, instead of flushing it down the toilet, consider burying it or throwing it in the garbage. Fish can carry foreign diseases and parasites that could spread through our water systems and affect native species.
  3. Level up and become a game master! Report aquatic invasive species to the aquatic invasive species hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628). Find out more about aquatic invasive species.

Fill out Fisheries and Oceans Canada survey on aquariums to help them gain a better understanding of the use and movement of aquatic plants and animals associated with the aquarium trade in Canada.

Hide and go zoo?!

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) can run, but they most certainly can’t hide – especially with all the help we receive from our partners and concerned citizens who are always reporting suspicious species! This spring, one AIS was found and luckily, quickly lost this round of hide-and-go-seek.

You may be wondering, zoo is the culprit here? Yellow floating heart, that’s who! On
May 23rd, 2019, the Integrated Pest Management team from the City of Edmonton contacted the AIS team to report a weed issue in a moat adjacent to the lemur enclosure at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. The AIS Specialist confirmed on May 27th that the plant was the Yellow Floating Heart 2prohibited species, Nymphoides peltata or yellow floating heart. This perennial species is native to Asia and Europe, and is a serious ecological threat to fish and their habitat by creating dense mats on the water’s surface, which crowd out native plants and reduce oxygen levels.

 

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Yellow Floating Heart roots in the soil and sends up leaves to float on the water surface. Flowers are bright yellow and have 5 petals. (Photo credit: Nicole Kimmel)

Fortunately, the moat system in the zoo is isolated and yellow floating heart has only been found in this one location. Unfortunately, the moat has been drained into a nearby storm drain that is connected to the North Saskatchewan River. This was concerning as yellow floating heart spreads in many ways: seed, rhizomes (below ground runners), stolons (above ground runners) and basically, through any fragments of the plant. The river is now under surveillance. Since this species is particularly challenging to eradicate, this weed issue quickly turned into an emergency response. On June 12th, the AIS team joined Edmonton Valley Zoo staff in hand removal of this plant. Water was hydro-vacuumed out of the moat and disposed of at hazardous injection well sites to ensure any possible fragments were not spread.

 

Yellow floating heart - Photo Credit Tanya Rushcall

AIS and Edmonton Valley Zoo staff hand removing all plants and fragments of yellow floating heart from the moat (Photo credits – Tanya Rushcall & Nicole Kimmel).

AIS and Edmonton Valley Zoo staff have been monitoring the site and will continue to dYellow Floating Hearto so for two additional years to guarantee yellow floating heart is no longer hiding in the shallows of the lemur moat! Although, an ASERT response was initiated, it’s thanks to reports like these that help us catch those AIS that hide and fuel us to seek immediate reactions. No more, “you’re it” but instead “you’re zoo out of here!”

 

How can you help?

  1. Don’t let it loose! Never release unwanted aquarium species – it’s illegal, unfair to native species and harmful to the environment.
  2. Report what you see! Call the AIS hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628) or use the EDDMapS Alberta.
  3. Learn to identify Alberta’s 52 prohibited aquatic invasive species using our pocket guide.
  4. Fill out Fisheries and Oceans Canada survey on water gardens to help them gain a better understanding of the use and movement of aquatic plants.

Fish you were (NOT) here

There’s something fishy going on… and thankfully a few concerned citizens “caught” it!

On July 10th 2019, the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Hotline received a report of numerous dead fish in the Elbow River, just outside of Bragg Creek. Fish biologists confirmed on July 11th that the fish were tilapia. This warm-water species is native to Africa and the Middle East, and pose immense risks to native fish species by creating turbid waters and outcompeting them for food and space.

Tilapia 2 - Credit Travis Shield1

Photo credit: Travis Shield

Unfortunately for the tilapia, their warm-water loving trait likely lead to their demise – depending on the species, they can die from temperatures ranging from 7 to 17°C. Although, the Elbow River was 11.7°C on July 11th, the thermal shock from their tank environment to the Elbow River was enough to o-fish-ally end this scare. Tilapia’s intolerance for low water temperatures makes their establishment in the Elbow River highly unlikely, as temperatures between 0°C to 4°C are common in winter months. Even though the tilapia did not survive, any parasites or diseases that they may or may not have been carrying have the potential to affect native and stocked fish populations.

So how did these fish get into the Elbow River? Even if they end up on your dinner plate, they certainly do not belong in our rivers and streams! Tilapia have been introduced around the world as a food source, as they are easy to grow and are mild-flavored. There are several licensed aquaculture facilities in the Calgary area, where the fish could have been deliberately dumped from. Facilities have been contacted regarding this fish introduction, as the release of fish into Alberta waters is illegal and prohibited under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act.

Tilapia - Credit Paul Christensen1

Photo credit: Paul Christensen

Environment and Parks staff will continue to scale the Elbow and Bow Rivers to ensure the tilapia aren’t lured into any warm spots, where wastewater treatment plants discharge their water. You too can help us by keeping your eyes peeled while you’re fishing, floating or hiking in the area!

How can you help?

  1. Don’t let it loose! Never release unwanted aquarium species – it’s illegal, unfair to the fish and harmful to the environment.
  2. Report what you see! Call the AIS hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628) or use the EDDMaps Alberta app.
  3. Learn to identify Alberta’s 52 prohibited aquatic invasive species using our pocket guide.

4. Fill out Fisheries and Oceans Canada survey on live seafood to help them gain a better understanding of the use and movement of commercially available live seafood.

The “crab-divating” story of illegal species transport

Alberta is always on the lookout for aquatic invasive species (AIS), specifically the 52 species listed as prohibited on the Fisheries (Alberta) Act. Sometimes, however, we get very interesting species that have the potential to get us in hot water, if they went undetected! Over the years, we have flushed out as many invasive species as we can and this month we will be elaborating on a few Aquatic Anomalies that have tried their luck at entering Alberta waters.

What wears mittens, enjoys long walks on the beach and has eight legs? The answer is… Chinese Mitten Crabs! At less than 10 cm in size, they may not seem like a big deal but these little crustaceans pack a big pinch by wreaking havoc both on the environment and human health. Importing these crabs into Canada alive is illegal without a license but recently, people have been testing the waters.

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Photo credit: Canadian Food Inspection Agency

On October 24th, 2018 the Canadian Border Services Association (CBSA) seized a shipment destined for a Calgary residence that was declared as “TV Lights”. This ill-marked Styrofoam box contained 21 kg of very real, very live Chinese Mitten Crabs. These greenish-brown crawlers are best known for their two claws with white tips and thick furry hair that resemble mittens. This species is native to East Asia and is considered a delicacy in Asian cuisine.

The shipment seized at the Calgary International Airport came from Hong Kong. Additionally, the importer did not have a fish import license, which is mandatory for anyone that wishes to import live fish or fish products. When CBSA finds an illegal species, they often connect with other government agencies more specialized in dealing with the species in question. In this situation, CBSA contacted both the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) program staff and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The package was detained and the case was handed over to the CFIA, where the crabs were euthanized.

Luckily, this invasive species was detected and stopped, as Chinese Mitten Crabs can threaten aquatic ecosystems by eating fish eggs and damaging fish habitat through their burrowing activities. In Alberta, the extent of environmental threats was deemed low because the crabs were unlikely to survive, if released. However, this still left a human health concern. Chinese Mitten Crabs act as an intermediate host for the oriental lung fluke, a parasite that can be passed to humans who consume it raw.

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Photo credit: Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The CBSA doesn’t just help in the fight against invasive species at the airport, they also collaborate with AIS program staff at land borders. In 2017, the province worked with CBSA to develop a border notification system to keep AIS staff informed when a boat passed the border outside of watercraft inspection station operating hours. Over 900 boats have been reported to date that could have otherwise been missed without this partnership. Collaboration is crucial to protect Alberta’s environment and ecosystems and we hope that you can continue to help us claw through the threat of aquatic invasive species by: