Season end on Bee Creek experienced heavy rains which soaked the area and filled the creek overnight. Despite faster running water and higher levels than usual, we recorded 30 cutthroat in seven sites, with lengths ranging from a small 50 millimetres to several at a relatively large length of 160 millimetres.
The healthy numbers finish off a monitoring season which reflects a good population of trout despite the heat wave during the summer, very late spring and an unusually early winter with heavy rains and even snow with the rapidly dropping temperatures.
With changeable weather came patterns of length. Given that a trout will grow roughly 25 millimetres in length per month lengths recorded suggest that since it take up to six weeks from spawning to hatching, the trout in Bee Creek could be up to two or three years old. Sea Run Cutthroat typically return to the coastal waters after this period of time so it is interesting to confirm this trait of largest trout recorded being 180 millimetres. (probably three years old).
Fall has finally arrived to Vancouver Island and the cooler temperature brings more colourful trees surrounding Bee Creek. With the season end coming up next month, we were able to retrieve 31 healthy cutthroat with the two largest being recorded near the mouth and from site 7 on Royal Roads property. The largest measured 150 millimetres, or approximately six months old.
The vegetation surrounding the creek has grown substantially over the summer, especially close to the mouth, making the placement of the traps a little challenging, but also rewarding, since dense weeds are an excellent source of cover for the fish.
Rod joined me this month and recorded the data in his customary efficient way. It looks like we may have to provide a salary raise.
Other noteworthy news is that the trout looked healthy with large bellies indicating that the creek is still providing a good source of food for the trout.
On September 13th we were happy to receive a visit from Ashley Richter and Lindsey McCrank of CRD. We met at the mouth of the Bee Creek and spent a wonderful hour or so telling our story. Lindsey is the coordinator of the Harbours and Watershed group which leads the Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative. All volunteers of the Bee Creek trout monitoring team are ELSI volunteers.
Ashley is CRD’s media expert and came loaded with cameras, microphones, lights and long list of questions. The Stewardship Storytelling project led by Lindsey, discovers motivations and experiences of volunteers. Material, videos and images will be added to CRD’s website.
We started with a demonstration of how the trout are recovered, measured and photographed, using two traps that had been set the previous day. We recovered several healthy trout from the sites nearest Pendray house, where photos were taken. Moving to the lawn overlooking the Esquimalt Lagoon we chatted about our experiences being mindful to remember Beth Mitchell who pioneered work on the creek since 2004. It was Beth who trained our team back in 2017 and the results of efforts remain strong today. Daryl and I chatted about the challenges and rewards of monitoring the creek, its connection to the lagoon and playing a small part in environmental protection.
The end of summer arrived with a healthy cutthroat count on Bee Creek. However the trout population appears to be concentrated towards the mouth of the creek and smaller counts in the upper reaches closer to the source.
We can also report one dead trout only the second in over five years from site four which is located mid way in the creek. It measured 50 millimetres and cause of death is unknown.
The same site found the largest trout at 180 millimetres, all of them being active and healthy.
With two months left in the monitoring season, the creek flow is still strong and clear.
The end of July marks the halfway point in the season for trout monitoring. The creek has slowed a little plus warmed up about 3 degrees with the warmer weather. In addition, plant life which provides shade and protection for the trout has grown thick and heavy. This month we recovered 21 cutthroat similar to the month of June and with typical length range of 60 to 140 millimetres. The creek is running a little more slowly now and site one, as usual sees the largest and most number of trout. Their colours were bright and the juveniles were active and certainly well fed likely with freshwater shrimp.
Trout were found in all sites this month along with several Prickly Sculpins (Cottus Asper) which spawn in stream estuaries. This fish can be mottled dark brown, green or grey with white or yellow undersides. There is usually a dark spot on the back edge of the dorsal fin and the fins are edged with black. (centralcoastbioversity.org, 2022)
With only one month into the new season, the sudden warmth has made quite a few changes. First is the rapid growth of all vegetation surrounding the creek and more importantly in the creek has provided the trout with shelter and cooler temperatures.
Sites for gee traps, along the creek and normally in open running water showed no trout. Sites with heavy vegetation growth , normally with few trout, in all cases showed significant numbers of trout. So the trout have moved quickly to sheltered, shaded and cooler spots.
The warmth has also brought a rapid increase in the amount of food for the trout to eat, namely, mosquitos, Caddis flies and fresh water shrimp. The Caddis flies have adopted new casings and when caught in the traps and examined, they emerge quickly. Shrimp are found in abundance in site six and seven, leading to the conclusion that the trout move quickly to where the food source can be found.
Trout measured from a small three month old 60 mm juvenile to a relatively huge 190 mm trout which was likely almost eight months old. In this case, the trout was the result of any early spawning in November 2021. We continue to monitor the creek around the new bridge where new pools have been created following rehabilitation of the creek bed and vegetation.
Season Opener for Bee Creek monitoring enjoyed a sunny and cool day of 13 degrees. Jordyn joined Daryl and me to examine six sites for juvenile cutthroat and although the numbers were low, the trout looked healthy, being from three to five months old.
Pendray House hosted the May 19th meeting steering committee of the Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative; the first in person meeting of the group since Covid started over two years ago. The meeting agenda included a brief tour of a few Bee Creek trout monitoring sites. The committee were able to see examples of a baited gee trap and how it is positioned in the creek to ensure good trout sampling data. The tour included a view of the new bridge, crossing Bee Creek, with an explanation on how the bridge was built while maintain creek flow and trout safety. Considerable effort was made to rehabilitate the stream bed and banks so that pools and natural cover were consistent with good stream keeping.
(from left to right) Rodney Huszar, Lindsey McCrank, Jen Tyler, Rachel Buskie, Bob Peart, Jason Nault, Judy Nault, Stephen Ruttan(for Vicki Metcalfe),
This spring we were visited by a class enrolled in the Take A Hike foundation led by Dane Cox. The program uses outdoor experiential leaning as a foundation for its success and the the visitors had a chance to experience first hand how cutthroat trout are located, trapped, measured and logged. A short demonstration on how to handle the trout to ensure they weren’t harmed during measuring allowed the class members to try their hands.
The class retrieved seven cutthroat ranging from 60 to 140 mms, all close to the mouth of the creek. In addition two large sculpins were recorded. During their visit the class was given a short tour of the creek with an explanation of how the trout enter the creek, spawn and spend up to a year or more before returning to coastal waters.
An interesting discovery was a Caddisfly Larva which had hatched in a small piece of vegetation. It was spotted by Olaf who saw the piece of stick moving, as the larva emerged from its hiding place. The larvae will eventually emerge from their casing and grow into a pupae before swimming to the surface and beginning the life cycle as a Caddisfly.
Many thanks to Lyndsey McCrank of Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative for arranging the visit.
Season closing for Bee Creek monitoring proved to be interesting with changes to the habitat and following heavy rains. In addition a strong wind storm just prior to monitoring pushed tides higher and flooded the mouth of the creek. Creek temperatures were down to just above 7 degrees.
The new bridge crossing the creek has been completed, leaving new pools formed by logs and rocks. Jordyn and Daryl chose a new site as a likely spot for trout and it worked well with three healthy cutthroat retrieved and measured.
Overall there were 27 cutthroat retrieved ranging in size from 50 to 150 millimetres which is encouraging. The creek is thriving despite the very dry summer with higher than average temperatures. There are an abundance of freshwater shrimp to feed the trout. In addition, the plants, trees and shrubs continue to grow and provide shelter from predators plus shade from the sun.
The small channel built to steer ground water from the condominium development towards the mouth of the creek continues to grow although is still too shallow to monitor for trout. The new season starts in May 2022.