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Fishing & Fish-watching Recommendations in Banff National Park
BANFF, Alberta – You know the worst day of fishing beats the best day of work and the worst day of fishing in Banff National Park beats just about everything else, too.
When you cast your line into one of Banff’s myriad waterways, you’ll be doing it amidst some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. If you’re looking for a calm, tranquil, relaxing vacation … well, come fishing in Banff; it practically defines the concept of “relaxing.”
But be aware: there are a few rules you must follow:
1. GET YOUR PERMIT FIRST. It’s easy to get, and you absolutely must have one before you can fish in the park. You can get one at any of Banff’s information centers, hot pools or campground kiosks. They’re even sold in some local retail outlets. You can buy one for a single day or, if you’re lucky enough to be able to come back at will, you can get an annual permit. Plus, the permit is also valid in the nearby national parks of Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho.
2. HELP PRESERVE BANFF. When you come to Banff, you are coming to one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s not easy to maintain that. Do your part. Obey all fishing regulations. If you see a tagged fish, report it. If there’s a creel or user survey, take part. And when park officials ask for public opinion, weigh in. Every little bit helps.
3. YOUR SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. There probably isn’t a more relaxing activity in the world than fishing – at least, not one you can do while you’re awake! But it IS outdoors, and like all outdoor activities, it comes with its own attendant dangers. Please keep in mind the following:
– If you’re going to go out on a boat, be sure to have all of the required safety equipment.
– Remember, you’re in the mountains (as if you could forget!) That means the weather can turn at any time, no matter what time of year it is. It gets cold, and precipitation is always a possibility. Bring plenty of warm clothing and weather gear.
– Bears are beautiful animals. They’re not to be taken lightly, however. They are to be found in the Canadian Rockies, so be alert.
Of course, you don’t have to have bait and a hook to enjoy Banff’s aquatic wildlife. All you really need is a taste for adventure and the right equipment.
Instead of trying to catch the fish; just come watch them.
First off, just like birdwatchers, bring binoculars. You’re going to want to get those lovely up-close views without actually wading into the water. Additionally, a pair of polarized sunglasses is highly recommended. The glare from the water can be blinding.
Next, do your homework. Know where to look when you’re out there. If you’re by an inlet or outlet of an alpine lake in June, keep an eye out for spawning cutthroat trout. If you’re out on the Bow River, pay close attention to the bottom. You could see a resting bull trout. You might also catch a glimpse of a school of mountain whitefish in the current.
Dive, dive, dive! Okay, you’re not in a submarine. But don’t be put off by the deeper waters. Divers in Lake Minnewanka, for example, claim to have seen a lake trout in the depths that could rival or even surpass the 43-pounder caught in the lake in 1889.
Having said that, if you’re standing near the surface of the water, keep back a bit. You don’t want your shadow cast over the lake as you could easily startle away the very fish you’re trying to see. And don’t throw rocks or other objects into the water to catch their attention. Be a polite guest.
For best results, look for fish in the hours around dawn and dusk. The light is more diffuse and the waters are calmer. In spring and fall, you might see fish spawning.
New to fish-watching in Banff? Here are four places you could start:
Cave and Basin Marsh: There’s a viewing platform for you here. Lots of tropical fish to see.
Beaver Pond, west end of 3rd Vermilion Lake: Come by in October; brook trout spawn in the shallow water close to the road.
Johnson Lake: Cross the bridge over the stream that flows in Muskrat Bay; it’s a very good place to watch fish. Rainbow trout spawn in the shallows in the spring; brook trout spawn there in the fall.
Forty Mile Creek: Take the Fenland Trail in the fall and you may see whitefish spawning.
So whether you’re in Banff to catch the fish or just watch them, if you follow the rules and use common sense, you’ll be in for a vacation you’ll never forget.
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