Number of spawning grounds plummeted after 2013 flood

Brown trout numbers in the Elbow River are holding steady, which is good news considering spawning ground counts plummeted after the flood four years ago.

Scientists, students and volunteers spent Friday rafting down the river as part of Calgary River Valleys’ annual fall fish count, looking for trout spawning beds — called redds.

The local non-profit has been doing the count for 14 years.

“What we’re hoping to see is an improvement in the spawning habitat, and that is some of the gravel where the trout are spawning that were pushed to the periphery of the stream during the flood that they’re getting moved back into the mainstream and available to the trout to spawn,” said Chris Bjornson, a senior fisheries biologist with Golder Associates.

“We’re starting to see a bit of that for sure.”

Before the flood, the group counted more than 430 redds. In the fall after the 2013 flood, the number plunged to barely over 100.

This year’s count is back up to the average number, which lies in the 200 range.

Robin Mcleod with Calgary River Valleys said the number has been slowly increasing.

“We have to have flood waters that come back into the river and bring the gravel down from the sides, hopefully,” she said.

Numbers from Friday’s count will be sent to the city and the province to help with further studies.