North Saskatchewan River Drainage Fish Sustainability Index Data Gaps
Alberta Environment and Park’s Fish Sustainability Index is a standardized process of assessment that provides a landscape-level overview of fish sustainability within the province and enables broad-scale evaluation of management actions and land-use planning. Priority species for assessment in our sample area include bull trout and mountain whitefish. Bull trout is a native sport species classed as Threatened in Alberta and is particularly sensitive to habitat change. In the summer of 2018, we used backpack and tote-barge electrofishing gear to sample 31 sites randomly distributed throughout the Cardinal River watershed, a tributary to the Brazeau River in the upper North Saskatchewan River drainage. We also sampled ten sites in the Willson Creek watershed, part of the upper Red Deer River drainage. We captured 221 fish in the Cardinal River watershed, including 98 bull trout, 22 cutthroat trout, ten brown trout, and 91 pearl dace. In the Willson Creek watershed, we captured 208 fish, including 83 bull trout, 119 brook trout, one longnose dace, and five mountain whitefish. In the Cardinal River watershed, bull trout was the most widely distributed species with the highest catch rates occurring in Ruby Creek. We captured bull trout in eight of the ten sites sampled in the Willson Creek watershed. Our study provides land-use managers with information on fish species distribution and abundance that is necessary to minimize land-use impacts to fish, evaluate bull trout status, and otherwise balance the diverse values of the North Saskatchewan River and Red Deer River drainages.
Alberta Environment and Parks, Hinton Wood Products – A Division of West Fraser Mills Ltd., Sundre Forest Products – A Division of West Fraser Mills Ltd.
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