May 5, 2017
It’s looking like a more normal start to the season than the last couple. Snow pack was good and during the rainy season it actually rained measureable amounts and its water, water everywhere. The East Outlet peaked at 10,000 cfs, the West Branch even higher, peaking at 17,000 cfs and the much smaller Moose River topped of at 7500 cfs. The Roach River has been as high as 900 cfs. Clearly flood stage levels and very dangerous to be around.
Over the years we’ve seen this sort of thing many times. Compared to non-high water years we’ll take early season high water anytime. It’s great to be able to wade the rivers in early season but the consolation prize to an early season high event is more fish in the river and lots of food for those fish..
When deep, flood gates open wide major amounts of smelt will be flushed downstream of Rip Dam into the West Branch below. It’s been proven a substantial drift of smelt into the river is the reason West Branch salmon grow bigger there than anywhere else. It’s a unique fishery where salmon are born and live their entire life in a river system. Everywhere else landlocked salmon migrate to and from a lake environment for their high protein diet of smelt. The West Branch needs high water and the flood of smelt that goes with it in order to maintain a healthy salmon population in the river.
Recent smelt studies on the Moose River revealed hundreds of thousands of smelt drift through the turbines ending up in the Moose River as additional food for waiting Moosehead salmon, brookies, and lake trout.
And when flood gates open on the East Outlet lots of fish that love the current associated with the lake side of the dam are caught in the enormous flow and flushed into the river below. We always see big numbers of fish in the river after a high water event. We’ve caught lake trout below the Beach Pool after an early season high water event. And most of the fish remain in the river, dining on all the bugs until the heat of summer runs them back into the lake.
When big, early season water in the Roach River hits the lake at Spencer Bay a run of salmon will occur and the Roach fishes like fall until the water finally drops to summer flow sending fish back into the lake.
High water around ice-out always means there will be more fish around and fishing holds up a longer into the season.
All of this doesn’t take into account that smelt are spawning right now. When rivers are too high to fish concentrate on the lakes and ponds they flow into. Those spots are at their best right now. Smelt are gathered at the mouth of rivers and streams in massive numbers and fish are there taking advantage of the banquet.
Lakes and ponds have been going ice free all week, snow has left the woods, the smelt are running hard everywhere and feeding fish are in the middle of it all.
The coast is going to get another major rain event but predictions say we will only see a little over an inch of rain this far inland. Keep your fingers crossed.
River levels have now started in the other direction. Fishermen are beginning to catch fish. Conditions are going to get better as is the fishing.
The photo above was taken by Sarah Sindo when flow peaked at Ripogenus Dam earlier this week. 17,000 cubic feet per second.