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What happens to trout during a flood?

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 09/13/2011 (5477 reads)
This past weeks flooding from Tropical Storm Lee left much of region devastated. The rains produced floods that rivaled the 1972 storm of storms Hurricane Agnes. Sadly, there are countless tales of significant property loss as result of flooded waterways from the Susquehanna in the Wyoming Valley to the Swatara in Lancaster County. Hoping everyone has a speedy recovery.

Clarks Creek FloodA lot of questions have been asked on the site as too what happens to the trout under such conditions?

The short answer is it depends, but for the most part fish and the aquatic life recovery reasonably well in these situations. That is not to say there won't be some short term issues. Trout and other fish instinctually know how to respond to these types of floods.

During high water fish will get into the safest flow of a a stream or river, which would typically be at the very bottom of a stream. This is where the velocity of the flow is the slowest. Rocks and other structure can provide some needed protection.

“The fish tend to hunker down,” said David Lemon, fisheries manager at the NY Department of Conservation’s Cortland office. “They get behind current breaks, in deep pools ... sit on the bottom.”

Certainly severe conditions can leave fish in some bad situations. Floods can deliver pollution and heavily silted water that can cause additional challenges. More problematic for trout is they can find themselves outside the banks of streams when the water retreats.

"Generally speaking the populations do quite well, bouncing back quickly, or never seeing a reduction. Occasionally seen, populations decline substantially and remain down for a number of years. This has usually been true only when the storm or flood has ravaged the habitat and for the long term left it much worse than before. In those cases, primarily brook trout streams, many to most of the pools were lost. The populations in those cases found a new and lower equilibrium," shares Mike Kaufmann, Fisheries Manager with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Probably the greatest threat to fish is the loss of habit during a significant flood event and not just for the fish, but the food chain as well.

While not as devastating in Pennsylvania, Hurricane Irene did pay a visit to New Jersey just before Tropical Storm Lee. Our friends over at TightLine Productions just produced a video showing how the fishing has bounced back after the hurricane and offering some hope for all us at Paflyfish. Thanks!

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Author Thread
Published: 2011/9/15 21:25  Updated: 2011/9/15 21:25
Joined: 06/19/2007
From: Lancaster County
Comments: 973
 Re: What happens to trout during a flood?
Sadly, there are countless tales of significant property loss as result of flooded waterways from the Susquehanna in the Wyoming Valley to the Swatara in Lancaster County.

I know the water was high and many streams spilled over their banks, but I think the Swattie is in Schuylkill, Lebanon and Dauphin counties Our worst offender, I think, was Chiques Creek, in Manheim.

Across the state, I know a number of state parks are still closed, and the bridge over the Loyalsock in Worlds End State Park, back to the cabin and group camping loop, washed out for the third time in two years (January 2010, Irene, and Lee). I drove up through the DWGNRA on 209 on Monday evening, en route to Boston, and pretty much every parking lot and trail were closed still (kind of surprising since the water had receded). They were all pretty much closed today on the way home.

And without trivializing the loss of property and in some case lives, it was nice to see white water in riffles in all the streams up through the Gap. I packed everything to wet a line on the way up or back and unfortunately, forgot my waders.

For the physics of why trout (or anything) hunker low in the water column, some light reading on the "The Law of the Wall" might help. Studied this stuff in sedimentology class, as it pertains to the movement of sediment in streams, and then again in fluid mechanics class, with an eye towards crystal movement in magmas, but its applicable to trout too.
Published: 2011/9/16 11:20  Updated: 2011/9/16 11:20
Joined: 09/23/2006
From: Williamsport, PA
Comments: 560
 Re: What happens to trout during a flood?
Speaking of flooding a friend of my brother was fishing the WB Susquehanna last weekend even though it was high and muddy. He launched around the Antlers I believe just outside of Linden. This is the beautiful brown trout he caught (he's a bass fisherman so ignor how he's holding it). Just curious as to anyone's ideas what stream this got washed out of...any ideas?

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