Abstract Fish stranding is of global concern with increasing hydropower operations using hydropeaking to respond to fluctuating energy demand. Determining the effects hydropeaking has on fish communities is challenging because fish stranding is dependent on riverscape features, such as topography, bathymetry and substrate. By using a combination of physical habitat assessments, hydrodynamic modelling and empirical data on fish stranding, we estimated the number of fish stranding over a 5‐month period for three model years in a large Prairie river. More specifically, we modelled how many fish potentially stranded during the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 across a 16 km study reached downstream from E.B. Campbell Hydroelectric Station on the Saskatchewan River, Canada. Fish stranding densities calculated from data collected through remote photography and transect monitoring in 2021 were applied to the daily area subject to drying determined by the River2D hydrodynamic model. The cumulative area subject to change was 90.05, 53.02 and 80.74 km 2 for years 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, from June to October. The highest number of stranded fish was estimated for the year 2021, where estimates ranged from 89,800 to 1,638,000 individuals based on remote photography and transect monitoring fish stranding densities, respectively, 157 to 2,856 fish stranded per hectare. Our approach of estimating fish stranding on a large scale allows for a greater understanding of the impact hydropeaking has on fish communities and can be applied to other riverscapes threatened by hydropeaking.
With the continuous development of hydropower on a global scale, stranding of freshwater fishes is of growing concern, and an understanding of the mechanisms and variables affecting fish stranding in hydropeaking rivers is urgently needed. In particular, a methodology is required to identify the magnitude and timing at which fish stranding occurs in relation to environmental conditions. Here, we studied fish stranding in three reaches downstream of a hydropeaking generation station in the Saskatchewan River, Saskatchewan, Canada, using an innovative remote photography approach with 45 trail cameras and traditional transect monitoring, conducting 323 transects. We observed that juvenile sport and commercial fish species are stranding at a higher proportion than small bodied fish species. The remote photography approach provided more precise fish stranding timing and associated the environmental and physical conditions with a given stranding event, but captured fewer fish and only rarely allowed species identification. The comparison of the two methodologies resulted in similar stranded fish densities, but the remote photography allowed for continuous observations whereas the transect monitoring was limited by the observer availability in the field. Remote photography allowed for additional information on the scavenging of stranded fish, with scavenging occurring on average within 240 minutes of the fish being stranded. The probability of fish stranding increased significantly with increasing water temperature and substrate particle size resulted in greater stranding on finer substrates. Our findings have important implications for hydroelectric flow management by introducing an innovative, standardized method to study the effects of hydropeaking events on fish stranding that can be applied to increase our understanding of the impacts of hydropeaking on fish communities.