Hundreds of thousands of Albertans and visitors love to go fishing or "angling". Over the years, many factors have contributed to a large decrease in the fish populations of Alberta's northern rivers and streams. This is because more people are fishing, the water is polluted, and the environment is being destroyed.
Older Albertans can recall the boom that hit Alberta when oil and gas exploration spread across the province. Seismic lines and roads increased access to northern Alberta and towns grew in size. Alberta's population expanded from about 1.4 million in 1965 to over 3 million today. All this change has brought a lot of pressure to our northern streams - not just by changing the habitat, but also in the form of heavy fishing because of higher populations and easier access to streams. There are now about 350 000 anglers in Alberta. These anglers (fancy name for people who fish) fish a total of four million days a year. That is insane!
Stream fishing in the north is not as popular as fishing trout streams in the mountains and foothills; however, anglers spend a combined 250 000 days a year fishing northern streams. Arctic grayling, northern pike and walleye are the most common fish species caught by anglers on northern streams. Fish in streams are quite vulnerable to capture because they are aggressive feeders and are often found in recognizable places like pools, back-eddies (little whirlpools created by the current) and where smaller streams join larger ones.
Anglers themselves have also initiated practices to help protect fish populations in Alberta. More and more anglers now practice "catch and release" fishing methods that allow them to enjoy their sport while preventing the overharvest of fish. Through these conservative practices and continued habitat protection, Alberta's fisheries are sure to carry into the future.