Welcome to the gem of the west

Crowsnest Flyfishing has been providing information and comment on the fisheries in Southwestern Alberta, particularly the Crowsnest River, for more than 15 years. The Crow is a tributary of the Oldman River that flows 40 km or so from Crowsnest Lake near the Alberta-B.C. border to the Oldman Dam reservoir northeast of Lundbreck.

Some call it a Blue Ribbon fishery, but the term is apparently reserved for rivers in the U.S. that meet standards in water quality, accessibility, natural fishery sustainability and angling pressure. The Crow generally meets those standards.

The Alberta Conservation Association, calling the river “one of the most popular trout fisheries in Alberta,” calculated rainbow trout (80,131 3 inches or greater of which about 5,000 were quality size) and mountain whitefish (16,000 or so) as the most abundant sport fish in 2010 and 2011 surveys in a 16 km stretch.

The area boasts six other rivers that are actually tributaries of the Oldman River, the main drainage for this part of the province. The Oldman joins the Bow River, itself called a world-class fishery, northeast of Taber to form the South Saskatchewan River, ultimately draining into Hudson’s Bay.

The Livingston River is the main northern tributary of the upper Oldman River, accessed from the Forestry Trunk Road, Highway 40.

St. Mary River actually has its source in Montana’s St. Mary Lake on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. The Belly also starts in Montana at Helen Lake in Glacier.

The Waterton River flows from Waterton National Park’s Waterton Lake. (With Glacier Park, Waterton is part of the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park).

The Castle River’s source is in the Castle Mountain area which abuts the Flathead of British Columbia on the west and Waterton Park on the south. The Carbondale, a mainly cutthroat or cutthroat-rainbow hybrid fishery, is a Castle tributary. Smaller streams such as Lynx and Lost Creeks are mainly cutthroat. Westslope Cutthroat are under a recovery program in Alberta following its designation in 2013 as a threatened species under the Federal Species at Risk Act.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, “The greatest threats to the Westslope Cutthroat Trout in Alberta include habitat loss, over-harvesting and the introduction of non-native species. Habitat degradation and loss due to timber extraction, mining and hydroelectric developments have been directly responsible for loss of habitat and the decline of several populations.”

The 2012-2017 Westslope Cutthroat Recovery Plan, enacted in March 2013, seeks to “protect and maintain the existing ≥ 0.99 pure populations at self-sustaining levels and re-establish additional pure populations to self-sustaining levels, within the species historical range in Alberta,” in the Bow and Oldman River tributaries where it has dropped to 20 percent of historic numbers.

As well, a recently-released draft of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan outlines needs and plans for recreation and tourism enhancement in southern Alberta, most notably in the Rockies between The Kananaskis west of Calgary south to Waterton National Park. (See the SSRP blog under River Views on this site.)

We provide updates on conditions in the area, particularly in the Crowsnest River and other streams in the area. This is the latest version of the site, with the blog in River Views a new feature.

Crowsnest Pass Services offers information on fly fishing, accommodations, guiding and other tourism services. We offer a Crowsnest River fly fishing map, first published in 1994, which details some of the history, access points and effective flies to use.

The Oldman River Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada is also linked through this site.