Mountain Whitefish Overwintering Habitat

As demand continues to grow for industrial, agricultural, and domestic water use, Albertans are seeking strategies to manage water needs. One of the primary tasks in water management is determining the habitat required to maintain a healthy river ecosystem so that managers can seek to meet socio-economic needs, while maintaining the ecological integrity of a watershed. In 2015, Alberta Environment and Parks completed a study in the Wapiti River to determine overwintering areas and microhabitat characteristics for mountain whitefish. In collaboration with Alberta Environment and Parks, we seek to build our understanding of under-ice habitat use and availability for mountain whitefish and validate results from the Wapiti River using the McLeod River. We conducted a telemetry survey on the McLeod River, where we tagged 53 mountain whitefish in the fall of 2017 and tracked their movement throughout the winter of 2017/18. Distance travelled from initial tagging locations varied from 9 km upstream to 89 km downstream, with fish moving greater distances from September to November than from November to March. Additionally, we collected habitat use data at fish locations and habitat availability data from randomly selected sites within our study area. Velocity and water quality remained consistent between habitat use and availability sites; however, fish showed greater use of shallower habitats with substrate dominated by large gravel and cobble. Our data provide valuable information with regards to under ice movement and habitat preference for mountain whitefish and can be used in future management decisions with regards to winter instream flow needs.


Alberta Environment and Parks, Alberta Innovates, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Millar Western Forest Products Ltd. – Whitecourt Pulp

Annual Summaries

We are working hard to upload all past summaries. If there is a report you would like to see that isn't presently here, please email

Title Year Category
Mountain Whitefish Overwintering Habitat 2017-2018 1
Mountain Whitefish Overwintering Habitat 2018-2019 1