Gone Fishing

Burrow Ponds - above

After upgrades, the Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery will decrease its greenhouse gas emissions of moving water through the building by up to 67%.

One of North America’s largest fish hatcheries is getting a well-deserved overhaul. The Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery (SLFH), located in southeast Calgary, has raised over 50 million trout from eggs to adults since it opened in 1973. For the first time in more than 40 years, the facility will undergo renovations to update its water treatment systems and modernize its equipment.

Here are five things you should know about the upgrade:  Continue reading

New Cast Members Needed

volunteer-assisting-young-girl-with-trout-id

Help tip the scales of knowledge! It’s never too early (or late) to assist young visitors in identifying their catch.

Looking for a unique volunteer opportunity this year? Bow Habitat Station is currently recruiting to their team of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers!

As a volunteer, you play a key role in supporting programs and initiatives at Bow Habitat Station that reach over 100,000 visitors each year. Whether it’s getting your feet wet in search of invertebrates in the Interpretive Wetland, helping a new angler learn to cast at the Trout Pond, or leading fish trivia with visitors in the Discovery Centre – there’s a little something for everyone!

Best of all, no prior knowledge of fish or fishing is required – we’ll do the training to ensure you’re set up for success! Of course, it is an added bonus for us when we can learn from you too.

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Amazing Race Canada teams look to tip the scales in Calgary

TW-WadersThings got a bit fishy on this week’s episode of The Amazing Race Canada – and we mean that in the most literal sense. Now in its fourth season, the popular show’s second episode prominently features teams following clues leading them through the streets of Calgary, stopping at various sites including our very own Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery at Bow Habitat Station! Continue reading

Explore Alberta this May long weekend

The May long weekend signals the official start to spring in our province – but it also kicks off the Alberta Parks’ provincial camping season and offers other fun opportunities.

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We Fish you a Happy New Year!

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Rainbow trout eggs are counted and put into a canister.

There were many moments of excitement and curiosity in 45 schools across Alberta last week. The 10,000 students involved in the Fish in Schools: Raise to Release (FinS) program received some new classmates – 65 rainbow trout eggs!

Having reached the eyed egg stage of their life cycle, the rainbow trout were transported from one of Alberta’s fish culture facilities to the classrooms.

The eggs were carefully packed in a thermos and placed in a cooler, before they were driven by staff member, picked up by volunteers, or even sent in the mail to some schools! Continue reading

A whole new meaning to schools of fish

Classroom pets are not out of the ordinary – but have you ever seen a class raise 65 rainbow trout, then release them into the wild?

That’s exactly what 37 lucky schools across Alberta are up to this year with the Fish in Schools: Raise to Release (FinS) program. Through the program, teachers and students – from Kindergarten to Grade 12 – have the chance to watch the trout life cycle unfold – right before their eyes! It’s a unique opportunity to watch trout grow and learn about how they adapt to changing environments.

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Which came first – the fish or the eggs? Things get ‘fishy’ during Alberta’s trout stocking season

Every year, eager anglers wait for a rather unusual sight of spring: stocking trucks pulling up to over 200 of Alberta’s lakes and ponds. Their cargo? Millions of trout that are raised each year in Alberta’s four fish culture facilities.

A stocking truck set up to release trout into their new home.

A stocking truck set up to release trout into their new home.

This fish stocking program has two goals. First, it reduces pressure on our native trout populations. And secondly, it creates new fishing opportunities throughout the province, in areas that don’t have natural trout populations.

Which came first – the fish or the eggs?

Obviously, we can’t just ‘grow’ trout like oranges or apples – we need to raise them from eggs. At the Raven and Allison Brood Trout Stations, adult trout – between two and five years old – are raised to supply us with eggs. Those eggs then go to the Sam Livingston and Cold Lake Fish Hatcheries, where the fry are raised until it’s time to ship them out. Over 2.2 million trout are raised each year at these facilities – that’s 115,000 kilos of fish!

The ins and outs of stocking season

When the weather warms up and the ice begins to melt off the lakes, we know it’s time to start shipping out the trout. Here’s how it happens:

  • First, the fish are weighed and sample counts are taken to ensure we’re not over-loading the trucks and that each lake is being appropriately stocked. Then, we put them in special fish transfer tanks and take them out to the loading docks. Each of the stocking trucks is fitted with five special tanks that can hold anywhere from 800 to 10,000 fish at a time. Often, more than one lake is being stocked in a single trip – in these cases, the technicians put the fish for each lake in a different tank.

Fish stocking 2014 - loading fish.

  • Each of the stocking tanks is filled with water and connected to oxygen tanks to ensure that the fish can breathe comfortably during their trip. Controls to the oxygen tanks are connected right to the driver’s cab, so they can easily monitor the levels of each tank. Whenever the truck stops, the fish are given a quick check-up to ensure their water quality hasn’t dipped.

Fish stocking 2014 - truck oxygen controls

  • Once everything is loaded up, it’s the job of our technicians to get the fish safely to their destinations. We stock lakes as far north as Zama City Pond and as far south as Police Outpost Lake – which means lots of driving during the stocking season. From May blizzards to absolute downpours, each Fisheries Technician has their share of stories about white-knuckle driving in poor conditions – especially since some of the lakes are pretty far off the beaten path…or the well-paved highway.
Photo of a pH test.

Before fish are released, we test to ensure their new home is suitable.

  • At the lake, the stocking truck pulls as close to the shoreline as possible. pH and oxygen tests are done on the water to ensure the environment is suitable for the fish prior to releasing them. Once the all-clear is given, the technician hooks up a long hose to the tank and places it directly into the lake. Then, with a quick lift of a hatch, the fish slide right out into their new home.
Photo of fish being released into an Alberta lake.

Freedom!

  • As you might guess, fish stocking can turn into quite the spectacle and can attract a curious crowd of anglers – who often enjoy swapping both stocking and fishing stories with our technicians. So keep your eyes peeled for these trucks in the coming weeks as they move some of our 2.2 million trout out into Alberta’s lakes.

Check out this year’s stocking report to see which lakes and ponds have been stocked so far. 

In safer waters: the conclusion of Bow Habitat Station’s flood recovery story

This is part two of a two-part blog post by Tamara UnRuh, Bow Habitat Station’s outreach coordinator. You can read part one here.

When I arrived at the Bow Habitat Station on Saturday morning, it had been almost two days since I had left the office wondering when I would return. I couldn’t believe what I saw looking out at the Trout Pond from the roof: our pond had now merged with the Bow River.

Photo of flooded Pearce Estate Park.

Looking North from the entrance to Pearce Estate Park towards Bow Habitat Station.

Into safer waters

 It wasn’t until the following day – Sunday – that the water levels had finally receded from the park enough for staff to begin the evacuation of fish from the building. But this was easier said than done. With the electricity still out, staff had to spot the fish in the tanks using only flashlights, and had to watch their step as the carpets were soaked through and had become quite the Slip n’ Slide. Eventually, staff were able to safely move 51 fish from our aquariums.  Photo of rainboots on a flooded floor

Once the fish were evacuated, we were able to find temporary homes for them with some help from our friends. Keith and Robin Freney of Fintasia, who maintain and manage our aquarium operations, also take care of the aquariums at Bass Pro Shops. They graciously offered a temporary home for our aquarium fish. We are happy to report that they have adjusted to their new environment quite well.

But the job was far from over. Approximately 250,000 fish remained in the ponds of the Fish Hatchery. Over the next week, staff relocated all the fish to other management facilities throughout the province – including the Allison Creek and Raven Brood Stations and the Cold Lake Fish Hatchery, as well as lakes and ponds throughout the province.

Cleaning up and moving forward 

Photo of Bow Habitat Station's flooded trout pond

The view of the Trout Pond from the Bow Habitat Station roof on Saturday, June 22.

With years of experience, staff were able to minimize the impact of the flooding on the building itself – but even water a few inches deep can cause substantial damage, and we were still faced with quite a bit of cleanup. Since the flood, both Bow Habitat Station and Pearce Estate Park have remained closed to the public as we continue the remediation and recovery process.

The hard work has resulted in some great progress. I’m happy to report that the Trout Pond, which acquired a few fish from the river, is once again receiving fresh flowing water – great news for the 50 rainbow trout remaining in the pond. Paul Christensen, one of our Area Fisheries Biologists, recently led a fish rescue operation to move the river fish stranded in the pond by flooding back to their native home.

Ready to re-open

Our work isn’t finished, but the hardest part of it is now over. Beginning July 30th, Bow Habitat Station’s Discovery Centre will reopen its doors with half-price admission. It will remain open throughout the summer: Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. At that time, the Trout Pond will also reopen for its always popular catch and release fishing.

It has been heartbreaking to see a place we all love suffer such devastation –and even harder to close our doors to the public for the last four weeks. Words cannot begin to express the gratitude we at Bow Habitat Station have for all the workers from different departments and organizations who came together through impossible conditions to save the facility and our fish. We owe so much to their continued support, and we’re excited to work alongside them to launch a full re-opening of all operations – very soon.

...and the Trout Pond the way it looked before the flooding - and how it will soon look again.

We are working to restore the Trout Pond – and other parts of Bow Habitat Station – to their pre-flooding conditions.

Rising waters: a first-hand look at Bow Habitat Station’s flood recovery

The Bow Habitat Station is still recovering from the recent flooding. They’ve had a lot of work to do – but they would have had even more had it not been for the heroic efforts of some remarkable staff members. This is a first-person post from Bow Habitat Station’s outreach coordinator, Tamara UnRuh. 

Photo of a flooded Calgary weir

On June 19th at 4:00 pm, Harvey Passage looked like this.

Rising Waters

It seemed like any other Thursday evening at Bow Habitat Station. The sun was shining, another busy day of school programming was wrapping up in the Discovery Centre, and the Fish Hatchery was all set for an evening tour. Earlier that day, we’d heard that the river was rising quickly, so at 4:00 p.m., I headed to check on the situation at the nearby Harvie Passage. Astonished to see the waters so high, I snapped a quick shot and returned to share the photo with my coworkers. None of us could imagine how much higher the Bow River would rise in the next 12 hours.

It was shortly after 6:00 p.m. when we received the notice to evacuate the facility. As the three of us on evening shift left, there were still anglers enjoying the Trout Pond. I had no idea of the situation I would return to two days later.

Throughout the evening, I received sporadic updates from the Fisheries and Operations staff who were maintaining the facility as the waters rose. Around 8:00 p.m., our fisheries technician, Ryan Lyster and hatchery manager, John Bilas, began to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

You might think that our fish wouldn’t be affected by flood waters – but that’s not the case at all. The greatest concern

Photo of a flooded water well

Wells located throughout Pearce Estate Park were flooded by the Bow’s rising waters.

was our source of water for the hatchery, which is supplied by groundwater. Wells are found throughout Pearce Estate Park and require a significant amount of machinery to ensure the water is pumped through the water treatment system and regulated with oxygen before reaching the fish.

For now, all Ryan and John could do was wait. They prepped oxygen stones for all the tanks, ensured all the pumps were running, and settled in for what they expected to be a long night.

Staying Afloat 

Around 10:00 p.m., the first alarm came. One by one, the wells which supply fresh water to the hatchery were being flooded out. Then, to make matters worse, power to the entire building was lost – and the back-up generators, which are typically cooled by water from the wells, quickly shut down.

Without electricity, water could not be pumped through the building to provide fresh water to the fish – and the groundwater which was now seeping into the lower level of the facility through the concrete foundation could not be pumped out.

Reinforcements made their way out to the hatchery – and were promptly waylaid by a flooded parking lot. Ryan used the facility’s largest truck to pick up the new arrivals and drive them back to the building – but when rising waters caused the truck to stall, the group had to pull on their waders and return to the building the old fashioned way.

Photo of a fish stocking truck submerged in flood waters

The water levels rose too high for even the biggest vehicles to access the building.

Back on dry land, the crew set to work repairing the generators; but in the end, there was only enough cooling water to operate one.  This meant rationing electricity by turning off all unnecessary appliances – even the lights. And that’s how our staff ended up working through the night…in the dark.

Calling in the Cavalry 

Their efforts were rewarded the next morning with the arrival of more reinforcements from the local Fish & Wildlife office – including more generators and food for employees who had now been working 16 straight hours. Much-needed bottled oxygen also arrived from our partners at Welco – and just in time: the Fish Hatchery was down to its last two hours of oxygen supply.

By Friday afternoon, water was being recirculated to all the fish and oxygen levels were being maintained. Things were as stable as they could be – but there was no guarantee they would stay that way. With all our wells still offline, there was no means of pumping fresh water into the system. The decision was made to evacuate the fish from the building – but to do so was easier said than done.

…to be continued.

Kids Can Catch Trout Pond Opening

Bow Habitat Trout Pond

Don’t miss the grand opening celebration of the Kids Can Catch Trout Pond. The pond brings angling opportunities and a love of natural places to young people living in the city.

Visitors to the pond can practice catch-and-release fishing, and gain awareness and appreciation of Alberta’s natural areas.

Plus, the Discovery Centre and Fish Hatchery will have a special-event pricing of $5.

Date:
Saturday, July 7
Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Place: Bow Habitat Station – 1440-17 A Street SE, Calgary

The event is open to the public, beginning with a free pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. followed by other activities throughout the day, showcasing Alberta’s fish, wildlife and water. Check out the investigation stations, trout pond dedication ceremony and fishing demonstrations.

The Bow Habitat Station is an interactive visitor centre that includes the Trout Pond, Discovery Centre, Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery and Interpretive Wetland.

More information is available on the Bow Habitat Station’s Facebook page or on their website.