Brown Trout Redd Counts

Brown Trout are fall spawning trout, unlike Rainbow Trout that spawn in the spring. These redd counts (redds are trout spawning nests) are conducted in November after spawning by the Brown Trout has occurred, a behavior that is believed to be triggered by changes in the duration of daylight hours, and perhaps to a lesser degree, by a drop in the river water temperature.

The Brown Trout Redd Count project is supported by funding from City of Calgary Water Services. Calgary River Valleys greatly appreciates the support provided by the City of Calgary for this important citizen science monitoring project. The data from our Brown Trout Redd Counts is one indicator of the health of the river ecosystem, as Brown Trout will only spawn in water that is low in sediment, has sufficient dissolved oxygen, is cold enough, and has sufficient flow.

We have been collaborating with other groups to count redds, of Brown Trout in the lower Elbow River since 1994, and we have been the main organizer of this important project since 2009. Why do we keep doing it every year? We believe it is important to ensure this project continues as an annual count in order to ensure the data collected is as accurate as it can be, that trends over time can be observed, and the location of redds can be used to ensure land use decisions don’t negatively impact Calgary’s blue-ribbon trout fishery.

2023 Redd Counts

We completed two Brown Trout Redd Counts in 2023, one new count of about a 10 km reach on the Bow River between West Baker Park and the Parkdale Boat Launch in Point McKay, and our usual count on the Elbow River between the Glenmore Dam and Fort Calgary, which covers approximately 12 km.

Bow River Redd Count

The count on the Bow River was conducted on October 29 with 11 volunteer citizen scientists, 2 professional raft guides, and 1 professional biologist who trained everyone how to recognize and consistently count the current year’s Brown Trout redds prior to departure. The weather was sunny and perfect for spotting the light coloured mounds of gravel that are the freshly created redds (spawning nests) of Brown Trout. 

Since this was the first year of counting redds in this section of the Bow, the number of redds counted (232) will serve as a baseline for comparison with future years counting this same section of the river. We have included some pictures from our Bow River Brown Trout Redd Count. 

Bow River Redd Count raft departure
Recording GPS location of redd on Bow 2023

Elbow River Redd Count

The count on the Elbow River was on November 3, 2023, with 10 volunteer citizen scientists, 2 professional raft guides, and 1 professional biologist who again trained everyone how to recognize and consistently count the current year’s Brown Trout redds prior to departure from the base of the Glenmore Dam. We also had several volunteers and 2 staff from Calgary River Valleys who provided parking for vehicles at the meeting location and counting finish area at Fort Calgary, waders for volunteers to use, hand & foot warmers, a hot lunch at Stanley Park, and access to washrooms at the stops.

We have included some some pictures from the Elbow River Brown Trout Redd Count from November 3, 2023, as well as the up-to-date chart of the numbers of redds counted.

Please contact us if you want more detail on the locations of the redds within the river.

Elbow Redd Count 2023 departure from dam
Elbow Redd Count 2023 at Rideau Park
Elbow Redd Count Chart to 2023

Brown Trout Spawning Education

Brown Trout live in the Elbow and Bow Rivers year-round. They spawn in both rivers, and also in some of Calgary’s larger creeks, such as Nose Creek. When Brown Trout spawn in the fall they can be seen from above from many of Calgary’s bridges in late September & through October each year.

It is often easier to see the fish through the water when the sun is shining in mid-afternoon and when there is little to no wind, so there are very few ripples on the water’s surface. In addition, using polarized sunglasses can greatly improve the ability to distinguish the fish from the river bottom.

2023 Spawning Education

Calgary River Valleys staff held 2 educational sessions on the Peace Bridge to engage with members of the public and talk to them about the life cycle of Brown Trout in our rivers. These were held on October 9 and 15, 2023.

Here are some pictures from the Brown Trout spawning education sessions CRV conducted in October. You can clearly see the lighter areas of river gravels that indicate these are new Brown Trout redds, with other trout waiting to spawn in the same area (the dark shapes).

Brown Trout spawning Oct 2023