Chucking Bugs in the Name of Citizen Science

Some of us get into fishing through family or a friend; others pick it up to connect with nature or get hooked on the competitive catch and release tournament-weekend tour. A new trend emerging for anglers involves citizen science, loosely defined as the amateur or nonprofessional participation in scientific research. For over 40 years, Trout Unlimited Canada has been working to conserve, protect and restore Canada’s freshwater ecosystems and their coldwater resources for future generations. In 1998, an initiative began in Alberta to control populations of brook trout, using angler education and volunteerism, which today provides thousands of hours of angler effort for the program. To participate, anglers take a simple fish identification test followed by a supervised outing with biologists from Trout Unlimited Canada. Afterwards they are issued a research license allowing them to harvest brook and rainbow trout in select streams in the Bow and Oldman watersheds.

Realizing my chance to participate, I booked the written test, passed with flying colours and found myself electrofishing with other volunteers in the Jumpingpound Creek amidst leftover September snowfall. The experience, and subsequent research license, not only reinforces my angler responsibility to maintain and support the protection and restoration of the very resource I enjoy but to also educate myself on proper species identification. I can now identify Alberta’s trout and chars more confidently, and when in the assigned research areas, can take home an epic panfry of fish. Harvesting one species to save another can make you feel like a superhero but it also teaches you about the nature of various species within the same classification. If more anglers participate in TUC’s Stewardship License Program, aggressive fish like brook and rainbow trout will have less domination over at-risk species like bull trout and the cutthroat. To learn more visit: http://www.tucanada.org/index.asp?p=2167