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Guest Mark P

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Guest Mark P

I could answer this question easily as it pertains to salmonoids but when it comes to Smallies and the rivers that are caught in; what effect will the extreme flows we are experiencing have on both the fish and the river itself? I ask this because the typical river that they are caught it are much different that the typical trout stream/creek.


I would like to think that rivers such as the Fox could use a good scouring every now and then to clean up the river bottom and relieve it of some of the algae growth and other debris as well as creating new cover as a result of deadfalls and the stacking of debris in various areas. Is this perhaps true? I an not so concerned about the condition of the fish, they always find a place to hide outside of the main flow with some obvious redistribution of the fish along the river, but what about the immature fish and the young of the year? Could we expect the numbers of catchable fish to drop in the next few years as a result of the flows that we are experiencing right now or has your experience been that there is minimal effect.


Lastly, what are your opinons about the condition of the river and the riparian zone after the flows/levels correct?


I've looked at some of the USGS flow data for the Fox, Kish, etc... and some of the numbers are staggering.


One good thing for us Salmon and Steelhead guys, these flows will sure help with the runs this year. I anticipate seeing the Kings probably a week or two earlier than normal this year if the temps cooperate and drop somewhat.


Thanks in advance for you answers.



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Mark it was my experience that the Heavy water flow did to some extent clear the river of sendiment and debris. This was good and bad because one year it removed my honey hole. I am sure that the trees stacked up somewhere else and became a new honey hole for someone else. The fish are not affected by the high water as they simply move to the shoreline eddies and grass. Just look at Eric's posts and the numbers of big Smallies he has been catching with the high water. In most instences he is walking the shoreline. Once the water goes back to normal levels the fish will move to the customary spots and cover.

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Other than keeping me off the dang river all summer, I think it is what it is. The beauty of it is, when I finally get back to the Kish, it will be a new river. New channels. New trees. New holes. That's one of the best things about river fishing. As soon as you think you know a flow like the back of your hand, we get a summer like this. I can't wait to re-learn my river!

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High water does not seem to be that detrimental as long as it does not come during the spawning period.


Jonn's right on this one. It's only during the very early stages of development that high water can kill fish. By this time of year the juvenile smallies are strong swimmers and fully capable of finding refuge. This late in the year, floods don't matter as much to fish survival, and might even be beneficial.

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Effects of Discharge Fluctuations on Survival of Smallmouth Bass in the Kankakee River




Robert D. Sallee , James Langbein, Harvey Brown , and Joseph Ferencak


Illinois Dept of Conservation




Using 10 years of field surveys on the Kankakee River over a 12-year period [1975-1986], discharge and discharge fluctuations during spring, spawning , and winter were compared to smallmouth bass[Microptertus dolomieui] catch per unit of effort[CPUE] data in an effort to understand observed variation in CPUE of this species . July CPUE at 13 sites on the Kankakee River was compared to the standard deviation of winter discharge for each year . CPUE of age 1, 2, and 3 smallmouth bass was significantly inversely related to increased discharge variability during the preceeding winter[p<0.05].

For the Kankakee river , winter discharge conditions may be important in determining subsequent smallmouth bass abundance . Discharge fluctuations may affect smallmouth bass numbers by increasing current velocities in wintering microhabitats , flushing the fish and exposing them to potentially lethal conditions .



Tim , if I interpret this abstract and study correctly I believe they think that high water in coldwater may cause younger fish to be more exposed to conditions such as thermal shock that may be fatal or flushing them from the system after they have entered the wintering micro habitat.

Do you think that the highwater in warmer temps has a lesser effect on the younger fish in the possibile flushing from the system ? I would think that thermal shock may not be an issue this time of year .


BTW the study is availible in " The First International Smallmouth Bass Symposium " put together by the American Fisheries Society Warmwater Streams Committee of the Southern Division Donald C. Jackson , Editor .

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Hi Norm.


I've read that book and this article, (although I confess I have forgotten most of the details of the findings).


I also confess I was thinking about the current (summer) flooding in northern Illinois when I made the post above. I didn't think carefully about winter floods in that context.


Winter floods are stressors for fish in many systems. From what I've read and understand salmonids take the worst beating during winter floods, but that's due primarily to the winter spawn and long developmental period of the eggs and alevins. It's the same dynamic that makes spring floods destructive to smallmouth populations. In contrast, large rivers simply have more backwater habitat when it floods. Deeper backwater lakes provide more thermal refuge and probably tend to increase bass survival.


I wonder if the poor quality of the upstream Kankakee smallmouth nursery had an impact on these findings. Perhaps these findings would have been different if there had been a chance for fish from upstream areas to recolonize the Illinois reaches (i.e., they were "flushed" downstream as the article says). I also wonder if the effect of main stem flow variability was tracked in tributaries along with the main-stem data (i.e. if the smaller fish moved into smaller streams) or if temperature was included in this study.


I don't know if Dan Sallee or Jim Langbein or the other authors of this report read these boards. If they did, now would be a great time to hear from them...on this or any subject.

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Tim ,


As far as temperature goes it mentions that they had temps for only 3 years between December 1 and February 28[29] . They ranged from 0.0 C to 9.5 C with a mean of 1.03C .


They did note that the winter that was the driest and the 4th coldest had CPUE for combined ages 1-3 fish well above the ten year mean of 10.4 fish/h for the following summer. They also noted the warmest and wettest winter had the second lowest combined catch of ages 1-3 smallmouth bass 4.77 fish/h the following summer .


From the map accompaning the study it appears that tributaries were not included .


I believe that the poor quality of the upstream fishery did contribute to the lower numbers in the study .




As far as flushing out the river , it prolly helps with the leaf and algae buildup but I haven't seen any evidence that it reduces the rooted emergent vegetation that has been on the increase since the drought years . I wonder if it could not make the situation worse by flushing all the lawn chemicals out of the storm sewers and farm chemicals out of the fields and into the riverine environment . In fact , in may well help by providing an extra source of nutrients when the weeds are spread to new areas by the rising water . The combination of lower water during the seemingly more often occuring drought times that allow sunlight to penetrate to areas it may not have in the past plus extra nutrients in the system promote new areas of weedgrowth .


I believe that the more new areas of weeds we have to slow the current flow will allow even more dumping of sediment over rocky areas which in turn gives the weeds new areas to colonize . I can tell you from personal observation over almost 4 decades that the sedimentation problem is getting worse every year. This will change not only the food chain by elimanating species dependent on the interspatial zone between the rocks but will also ultimately change the fishery by elimanating spawning habitat that current species need . Undoubtedly other species that will find the new conditions more to thier liking will thrive but it probably won't be to our liking as smallmouth anglers .


Any one who has fished the river over the last 5 years or so has noted and hopefully come up with strategies to deal with the increase in the rooted emergent vegetation in many of the more productive stretches . I know that as someone who prefers crankbaits above any other lure it has forced me into changes in tactics in those areas .


It seems to me from personal observation , not from anything scientific mind you , that this situation has led to the increase in species such as gar and largemouth bass in areas where the largemouth especially were a minimal presence and the gar at least were in lesser numbers than now .


I hope I didn't take the thread too far off it's original intent .

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