Nature Notes

Vol. III July 1st, 1925 No. 1



Summer before last, Reflection Lake and Lake Louise, two high-altitude lakes at the base of the mountain near Paradise Valley, were opened to fishing. At various times during the preceeding few years the lakes had been stocked with Eastern Brook Trout which had done well and were from eight to twenty-six inches in length. We all went fishing, but none of us had much luck. Altho trout weighing from three to four pounds were often seen in the clear blue water none weighing more than a pound or so were taken during the entire season.

A few of the inveterates tried the lakes again last summer but most of us decided that stream fishing and Cutthroats were good enough for us. Then all of a sudden one of the boys brought in three young "whales" from Lake Louise and we all went fishing again.

And again we had no luck. Still he kept bringing in record catches and still we fished in vain. At first I feared we suspected him of using illegal methods but such was not the case. The answer was, our friend had learned the habits of Eastern Brook Trout and we had just fished! He had looked into the private home life of Salvelinus fontinalis and had learned what "His Highness" preferred for dinner and when he preferred to have it served and where. Then our friend had ceased to "just fish" and had begun to cater to those particular trout. The result has been stated.

I have never yet become a good disciple of Isaac Walton, at least not a successful follower of that worthy, but I have succeeded in learning a few mighty interesting things about fish.

Although all the National Parks are game sanctuaries and no hunting or trapping is allowed, fishing is possible because of the fact that restocking may be accomplished so readily. Each year thousands of small trout from the State Hatcheries are planted in the waters of the Park and each year the fishing is becoming better and better.

Even with the introduction of two species of trout - the Eastern Brook and the Montana Black-spotted - the fish population is very limited in variety as only three species occur commonly in the streams of the Park. These are the Rainbow, the Cutthroat and the Dolly Varden. A fourth species, the Steelhead is known to occur in the rivers flowing from the mountain but outside the Park. It is not unlikely that they sometimes occur in the upper streams but they are not common. Scientists have recently proved that the Steelhead is nothing more nor less than a Rainbow trout that has adapted the ways of the salmon and gone out to sea, there to grow to a considerable size before returning to its native streams to spawn. The Rainbow are simply the individuals that have never gone to sea.

There are no fish found in the Park except those classed as trout altho actually only those belonging to the genus Salmo are true trout. This excludes the Dolly Varden and the Eastern Brook trout which, altho they are first cousins of the trout should more properly be called charrs.

All of the numerous lakes and many of the smaller streams of the region are cut off from the rivers by waterfalls which are too high to be passed by the fish as they ascend the streams to their spawning ground, and consequently they contained no native trout. Many of these have been stocked artificially during the last few years, largely with Eastern Brook trout, which is native to the eastern part of America only, but which because of its splendid qualities and hardiness has been introduced extensively in suitable waters all over the world.

In the waters of the Park the Brook trout attains a weight of about five pounds and is considered one of the best of game fish. It is an outstanding peculiarity of this species that a person acquainted with its haunts and habits can catch the limit of brook trout within a very short time, while others better equipped with tackle perhaps but not so familiar with the fish may spend the day in vain effort.

The common trout of the rivers, and a few of the Lakes such as Lakes Ethel and James and Mowich Lake where it has been introduced, is the gamy Cutthroat.

No angler can ask for a more worthy foe with whom to do battle or a finer flavored fish for his pan than this same common Cutthroat trout. Early in the spring they begin to run in all of the lower streams as far as the glaciers or the falls. Fishing however in the larger rivers is hindered in mid-season by the rapidly melting glaciers and the resulting glacial silt carried by the streams. Spring and fall are the Cutthroat seasons.

Another splendid fish both for "fight and flavor" is the Rainbow, either native or "planted". Rainbows occur in all of the larger streams of the Park and have been introduced into a few of the barren waters but are never so abundant as either the Cutthroat or the Brook trouts.

Poorest of all perhaps is the pale silvery Dolly Varden which is particularly abundant in the rivers of the north side. Altho occasionally they put up something of a battle particularly in swift water they are usually more or less sluggish in habits and the flesh is without flavor.

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