June 13, 2020, Saturday, 9 am.
I was out early to do my weekly measuring of the creek depth in five different sites from Pipers Pub to the beach. Last year at this time, the creek was completely dry. So I have been measuring the depth of the creek, just to keep track of it.
The second measurement site is just below Shores Drive. I walked down the riparian area to the edge of the pool and was about ready to lower my measuring rod when there was frantic thrashing of some small creature in the pool from one side of the small pool to the other, the creature went and all was quiet. Could it be a frog or toad? Salamander? What was it?
I crouched down low to watch and then a small fish appeared in the middle of the pool, fanning the water over its gills, hovering just under the surface of the water. The pool was fed by a small trickle of creek water from upstream which then trickled out the other side, flowed under the gravel, and traveled subsurface. It was an isolated pool, fed by a meagre flow.
I guessed that the pool was low on oxygen since it was small and isolated. All the excitement must have worn the fish out, so it hung just beneath the surface as if to say, "take a photo if you must." So I did. I leaned in close but the cutthroat trout didn't move. I identified it by its size, colour, and markings but especially by the red slash under its jaw. (I learned to do some identification while volunteering for the Departure Creek Smolt Trap count every spring - except this year, that is.)
I reluctantly left the pool to complete my other measurements.
June 13, 2020, Saturday, 7:10 pm.
Later that day, after some decent rain showers, I revisited the same pool. The rain had changed the flow in the creek. Much more creek water flowed through the site and the pool was no longer isolated. The water had been oxygenated. I couldn't see the cutthroat at first. So I disturbed the banks of the creek where it might be hiding and out it came with lots of energy. Back and forth across the pool and then quiet.
I began to worry about the long term feasibility of the cutthroat to survive here and thought about the possibility of moving the fish upstream to larger pools there. The fish was helpless against river otters, birds, and other prey.
June 14, 2020, Sunday, 10 am
I visited the pool once again and found the fish much more active with the continued lively flow from upstream.
June 14, 2020, Sunday, 7:00 pm
Later that day, I once again visited the creek and did not see any evidence of the cutthroat. I disturbed the edges and middle of the pool and nothing emerged.
During the summer low flow season, trout can get trapped in pools and become stressed by high temperatures and lack of oxygen. We wondered what the best response is in this situation - leave the fish or move it to a deeper and more oxygenated pool?
Dave Clough advised us that in some conditions it would be best to move the fish, but you can't legally do so without a fish salvage licence. He recommended we apply for one annually through Front Counter BC - Fish and Wildlife permits (research/scientific permits).