Missouri Trout Hunter

Blog for sharing thoughts, beliefs and opinions on issues affecting the world of trout fishing in the Ozarks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2008 Flooding Hurts Trout Fishing in 2009

Fewer Trout to be Stocked This Year

The good news is 2009 should not be nearly as wet as 2008. In fact, last year was the wettest year in Missouri History, with some areas receiving almost 6 feet (yes, FEET) of rainfall. The unbelievable amounts of moisture certainly affected the fishing last year, but it looks like we're going to be feeling it this year as well.

In 2008, Lake Taneycomo arguably bore the brunt, as it's headwaters (Table Rock Lake) collect the runoff from miles around. The flow of flood waters being pushed through the turbines and flood gates at one point reached over 47,000 cubic feet per second, a full 53% higher than the dam's previous record. This added flow not only decreased the ability to fish, but it also raised the water temperature significantly. Those changes are going to continue to hurt trout fishing for at least the next season.

For brown trout eggs to be successfully fertilized and raised, the water temperature needs to be 53 degrees or so. The temperature of the water flowing through Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was in the upper 60's, causing a significant decline in their brown trout success. Every stocked brown trout in Missouri comes from the Missouri Department of Conservation's Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, so those of us who like to target that species will notice a difference in the next few years.

Small brown trout (8-9 inches) are generally stocked in the springtime. Some rivers receive an Autumn stocking from the same brood, making those fish perhaps an inch longer. In many of our brown trout streams, the survival rate for those first-year residents is less than 20%. And since it takes at least 2 full years for those runts to grow to the "keeper" size of 15 inches, that's likely when we'll see the first notable difference in our brown trout fisheries.

In addition to poorer spawning results, water quality at the hatchery declined as well, meaning an increase in disease and parasitic infections. MDC reports that Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery lost more than 30,000 pounds of fish to these issues -- more than 4 times the normal annual loss.

Rainbow trout were affected as well, however. Shepherd of the Hills also raises rainbows, of course. And the hatcheries and rearing pools at Bennett Spring State Park and Maramec Spring Park also suffered significant losses, both due to the flood waters and diminished water quality.

Bottom line is that stocking numbers are going to be off by about 10% this year. The trout parks will be stocking 2 trout per anticipated fisherman (compared to the normal rate of 2.25), and all other stockings across the state will have to be decreased by similar percentages. This should not effect Stone Mill Spring on Ft. Leonard Wood or the winter trout lake program, since those trout are purchased from private hatcheries. MDC states they are cautiously optimistic that they'll be able to return to normal stocking rates in 2010.


Blogger Family-Outdoors said...

It's a bummer about the losses. It probably won't affect the trout parks much, but I am afraid of the effect it could have on the streams where the trout are residents. But 10% isn't that bad. I can't imagine it will have a long term effect on any of the streams.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're probably right. My guess is that the changes to the rainbow fisheries will only last until next year (assuming we don't have another springtime like 2008). The brown trout streams are a bit different, though. Since they stock immature brown trout that will take at least 2 years to grow to 15 inches and 4 years to grow to the magic "lunker" size of 20+ inches, we probably won't notice any difference this year in the number of mature brownies we catch. Three or four years down the road, though, the numbers might dip somewhat. After that, I'm betting things will get back to normal pretty darn quick.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Family-Outdoors said...

Yeah. When I went down to Montauk this weekend there was sure no shortage of fish. That's not to say I caught many, but they are there. I can't imagine the 10% will effect these much. But you are right about the effect it could have on places like the Meramec and Current in the next few years. It shouldn't be that bad though.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Lumlures said...

I'm looking forward to participating in the Winter Trout Program with my nephews and glad you thought it would not be affected by the shortage of trout caused by the rains of 2008, but I thought these fish came from the MDC Hatcheries. What do you mean they get trout from private sources for the Winter Program? I also want to know that these fish are as safe to eat as the ones raised at the trout parks where they are virtually free of mercury and other contaminants in their spring water hatcheries (as MDC has tested). Where are these private hatcheries and how many are there out there? Does that explain why we sometimes see 7"-9" browns stocked during winter in lieu of rainbows?

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The trout parks are stocked from state hatcheries for the winter program, but the urban winter trout lakes are generally stocked from private trout hatcheries associated with the pay-to-fish trout ranches around the state: Westover Farms, Rockbridge, Crystal Springs, etc. In addition to stocking their own streams for fishermen, they sell tons of fish to towns and states for winter lake fishing, as well as to private land owners and restaurants. Additional state stocking also comes from the Neosho federal trout hatchery. All of our brown trout come from Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery near Branson (state owned), and Missouri brown trout are generally in the 7-10 inch size range when they're stocked, depending on the time of year. Regarding water quality and testing, the private hatcheries have to meet the same standards as the state hatcheries do, so no worries.

7:29 AM  

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