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scotth
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i see the current flow and water height but exactly what am i really trying to understand here as being useful to fishing?? i see guys using it all the time in they're water/fishing discussions..just curious if it is something i "need to know"..

 

scott

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If you do a lot of wading in the local rivers you'll find the gauges become very important. Knowing what levels are safe for you to enter the water can make or break a trip. If you're unsure of how to read the gauges, check the levels before and after you hit the river. If you found it too high and fast to comfortably wade make a note of that. Keep doing that until you know where you're comfort zone begins.

 

Also make a note of where the level was in conjunction with the banks. Was it up in the grass/weeds? Zipping by too fast to use a light jig and hit the bottom? All these things will give you a good idea of what gear to bring before you walk out the door.

 

I'm sure that there are plenty of other ideas and answers to your question. But these are what I find most important when I look at the gauges.

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I know you asked about fishing but my number one use of the gauges is safety.

 

As far as fishing goes; if the water is low and slow that generally means clear. This translates into fish using sight more, which for you could mean more natural colors/presentation. Also longer casts to avoid spooking and best off all a possible topwater bite. If there is an extremely sharp slope of the gauges the fish are probably looking more for security than food. However for you it would mean a heavier jig to stay near the bottom. A more gentle slope could be the start of a feeding binge like when they regularly open flood gates on a dam. Almost like a dinner bell. Just like anything else there are always exceptions and I mostly just use the gauges for safety.

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Hi Scott,

 

I am not overly versed on this as well. However, have heard some say for instance wading the Kankakee is not recommended if over 1500 ft/per second. I see today it is at 4600 at Wilmington. Therefore that tells me that it is really moving, probably none to clear and would most likely have to fish any slack water areas (if any) or use heavier baits. In other words, it would be tough!

 

Mark O'Donnell

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Like others have said, I think you learn over time what cfs or gauge height is a good, safe level for wading, bank fishing, or boating. I look at my favorite rivers and can pretty well see whether they are at a decent level, before traveling some distance to find it is a waste of time. If you just watch them over time you get a pretty good idea.

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All of what is said above is good advice. You read the gauges, then observe the rivers noting the details for future reference.

 

One point I'll add is not to assume high flow means lack of water clarity, especially in non algae bloom months.

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Alot of good tips posted here already. I'll add one more which has helped me especially with new river that I have never fished.

 

Below is a picture of a sample gage:

 

 

 

The triangles show the median water discharge over the past 68 years. This basically means the average water level for that time of year. On June 16th the water flow was close to average and I image the fishing conditions were pretty good that day. The median level is 217 cfs and the current level is 1,270 cfs. That is over 5 times the normal flow of water which can't be safe for wading. For the wading fisherman you would want water levels than are near or below the triangles.

 

For a canoe/boat fisherman you may be looking for something different. Low water may mean you need to get out and drag your canoe through every riffle or run the risk of loosing your prop. It's been a while since we have had to worry about that around here.

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Deluge above aside, if you wait for what is 'normal', you'll miss a lot of really great fishing. Perfect conditions aren't always good for fishing either.

 

As Eric and Norm have shown time and time again.

 

'Normal' flow in spring is higher than summer. Is it suddenly unsafe to fish a 500 CFS which is normal in Spring once we hit June 21?

 

Median flow is of middle value which changes seasonally, not an indicator of what is safe or fishable unless you have the eye's reference.

 

What is safe is going to the river and observing, then noting it for future reference.

 

One can always scoot and fish banks. High water fish are usually stuck to them anyway.

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