Barbs and Backlashes

Carter Lake Renovation Update by whitetips
October 7, 2010, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags:

I believe that most have heard about the Carter Lake rotenone renovation already.  I just want to give a little update on that project.

84 barrels of rotenone were needed to treat Carter Lake.

Carter Lake is a border water on the east edge of Omaha.  Over the years this oxbow lake has suffered from poor water quality.  The primary goal of all of the work being done at Carter Lake right now is to improve water quality.  Of course better quality water will also result in better fishing, and Carter Lake is located where there are a lot of potential anglers living close by.

The aquatic habitat rehabilitation project at Carter Lake is a major project involving two different states, two different cities, numerous government agencies.  The planning process for this project has literally taken years and has given the public as much opportunity for input and education as possible.  You can read the water quality management plan that was developed from that whole process here, .

In spite of all the public involvement and planning I have heard some complaining and “sniping” about the project since the rotenone was applied.  For example, you can read some of that here, .  I guess there were even some dead fish dumped at the Carter Lake City Hall in some form of “protest”, .

Before the rotenone was applied at Carter Lake, there were numerous levels of review done by several entities.  Those reviews and approvals considered the impacts to all parts of the Carter Lake ecosystem including birds and other wildlife.  We have been told in that review process that rotenone renovations in the late summer or fall are better for birds because at that time of year birds are migrating or can at least move to another food source if they had been utilizing fish from a water that was chemically renovated.  If a rotenone renovation was done in the spring or early summer, there could be young birds dependent on that food source that could not pick up and move to another food source.  With improved water quality at Carter Lake, all fish and wildlife, including birds, will benefit.  I have said this before about aquatic rehabilitation and chemical renovation projects–there will be some short term sacrifice for long term gain.

We typically do not pick up dead fish following a rotenone renovation.  There is no waste in nature and at the least the fish that die from a rotenone renovation will decay and be recycled back into the ecosystem.  But, there is no doubt that a pile of dead fish stink, and if that is a concern, there are times when the dead fish will be picked up following a rotenone renovation.  Fisheries crews from Iowa and Nebraska picked up dead fish in the days following the rotenone renovation at Carter Lake.  There were 88 tons of dead fish picked up at Carter Lake; that works out to 500 pounds of fish, almost entirely carp and buffalo, per acre of water.  Apparently, there were very few sport fish left in Carter Lake after last winter as very few were seen when the rotenone was applied.


Anyone want to volunteer to let us use their boat to pick up dead fish?



88 tons of dead fish, mostly rough fish, were hauled away.


There is still a lot of work to be done to improve the water quality of Carter Lake, but the project if well under way!  Restocking of fish will start yet this fall, and I am betting the fishery at Carter Lake will be better than ever in just a few years!


Reservoir Updates, September 15, 2010 by whitetips
September 15, 2010, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , ,

Some quick updates on a couple of habitat rehabilitation projects.  First of all, if you are not familiar with our Aquatic Habitat Program, please take a few minutes to learn about it, it is your money, you should know how we are using it, .  A month ago I gave a quick update on some aquatic habitat rehabilitation projects, and right now I would like to add a few details.


The aquatic habitat rehabilitation project at Hedgefield Reservoir south of Lincoln is basically done.  The contractors are cleaning up a few things, and doing some finishing touches, but basically the project is complete.  I slipped out there a couple of weeks ago and took a few pictures.  Here is an aerial overview of the project.

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Reservoir Updates, August 9, 2010 by whitetips
August 9, 2010, 10:05 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , ,

We have some reservoir rehabilitation projects underway, and I have some updates from Steve Satra.  Steve keeps tabs on the Aquatic Habitat Program details around the state.  Thanks, Steve.


There have been delays due to winter snow melt and wetter than normal rainfall this spring and summer.  So far this year the reservoir has partially or  completely filled 2 or 3 times and pumping was needed in addition to opening the outlet structure to get the water back down where the contractor could continue work.  As of right now the Hedgefield project is 75% complete.  There has been 70,000 cubic yards of sediment removed.  A new boat ramp and protecting jetty is being constructed, and angler access improvements are progressing.  If things continue to go well, finish work with grading and seeding of the project site will be completed in late August.  The outlet structure may be closed and refilling may begin in Mid-August to early September.  Fish re-stocking may begin this fall.

Ironhorse Trail Reservoir

Wet weather again has delayed progress on this project as the reservoir has been completely drained and refilled twice.  Work has progressed when it has been dry enough to get into the reservoir basin and the project is approximately 65% complete at this time.  There has been 200,000 cubic feet of sediment removed, sediment basins have been completed on the north end of the reservoir and in the tributary arms.  Island construction has started, and most of the shoreline rip-rap placement has been completed.  Again, if things continue to go well, the reservoir could begin refilling yet this fall.  Fish stocking could begin this fall depending on progress, but next spring may be more likely.

Big Indian 11A

This project started in May and has been slowed by all the precipitation we have had.  Again pumping and draining has had to be done to remove water and dry the basin so work can be done.  At this point the project is only 25% complete.  Excavation is only 20% complete and the locations of sediment retention dams and breakwaters are just being prepared.  Approximately 35% of the rock needed for rip-rap is on site.  There is no projected completion date at this point and from what I can tell it is likely to be next year some time.

Leigh Lake

This is a new, 150-acre reservoir being constructed just northwest of the town of Leigh.  The dam and in-lake structures are 95% complete.  This reservoir was built with fish habitat in mind and has a variety of depths and drop offs, flooded trees, breakwaters, sediment basins and shoals.  Chemical renovation to remove rough fish in the reservoir and watershed has been completed and bluegill and largemouth bass fingerlings have already been stocked.  Recreation area developments are continuing around the reservoir.

I know if one of these waters was your favorite fishing hole, you probably are not too happy when they are drained and a rehabilitation project starts.  When a habitat rehabilitation project starts these waters will be “out of commission” for fishing opportunities for a few years, but they should be back better than ever!  There will be some short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.

We are working with Natural Resource Districts on all of these projects; the Lower Platte South NRD on the Hedgefield dam, Nemaha NRD at Iron Horse Trail,  Lower Big Blue NRD at Big Indian 11A and the Lower Elkhorn NRD on the Leigh Lake project.  Thanks to all of our partners for their work and funding!

Eric Fowler of our NEBRASKAland staff provided the recent aerial photos of all of these projects and I have to say “thank you” to him too!

Yoda by whitetips
June 30, 2010, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , ,

I work with a great bunch of people here in the main Fisheries office at our Game & Parks headquarters in Lincoln.  Without exception we love what we do because we have a passion for what we do; we genuinely care about Nebraska’s fisheries resources, it is our life, it is our lifestyle.  That being said, I have to tell you that I had mixed feelings coming to work today because one of our Fisheries personnel is retiring and today is his last day of work.

You may be bored reading this, but this is my blog and I could think of no better way to wish Larry the best as he moves on.  In doing so I hope you get an idea of some of the great personnel we have taking care of our state’s fisheries resources, your fisheries resources.

Let me tell you a little bit about Larry Hutchinson.  Most of the time we call him “Hutch”, but at times we have called him “Yoda”.  Now you might think that it is derogatory to refer to someone as a green, aged, short, extra-terrestrial creature from Star Wars, but let me explain.  Hutch has been our Jedi master.  His experience and wisdom has been a huge asset to our Fisheries Division and is something that many of us younger biologists hope to emulate in some small way in our careers.

Yoda, appropriately sitting next to a stream!

Hutch has worked for the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission for 45 years!  I am going to repeat that, yes, I said 45 years!  Now you know why we value his wisdom and experience so much.  In those years of experience Hutch has worked in a lot of different regions in the state and has worked on a variety of fisheries projects, more than I will chronicle here.  In recent years he has been our lead for instream flow applications.  Let me tell you a little bit about instream flow rights to give you a better idea of Hutch’s value.  I will never claim to be any kind of expert in Nebraska water law, but I can tell you that fish and wildlife and outdoor recreation are at the back of the line when it comes to water appropriations.  Water for fish & wildlife and outdoor recreation for the most part is not even considered a legitimate use of water in Nebraska.  A few years ago that changed somewhat when the Nebraska legislature changed our water law and allowed certain amounts of water to be designated for instream flows, flows reserved for fish and wildlife and outdoor recreation (assuming that there is water left to be reserved).  Afterall, rivers and streams are not rivers and streams if they do not have water in them.  Nebraska’s Natural Resource Districts and the Game & Parks Commission can apply for those instream flow rights.  Now there have been lots of folks that have worked on instream flow applications and they all deserve credit, but Hutch has been our lead in instream flow applications that were submitted and granted for Long Pine Creek and the Platte River.  Currently Hutch has been our lead for the ongoing application process for the Niobrara River.  You can imagine the political minefield involved in those instream flow applications and our “Yoda” has successfully navigated through them!  Hutch has been recognized nationally for his work on instream flow applications here in Nebraska.

One other thing I have learned from Hutch has been something called the public trust doctrine.  I will not bore you with all the details about that, I believe I have an entire text on the subject that I got from Hutch, but it establishes how our natural resources are valued and managed.  In short our fish & wildlife resources belong to the people!  In the “Old World” the fish & wildlife belong to kings, lords, dukes, princes, royalty or the “state”.  The model here in America has been one where the natural resources belong to the people, the public; the fish, the wildlife are ours, yours, mine!  The “state” or government has been entrusted with the stewardship of those public resources.  All of our fish and wildlife management in America is based on this doctrine and this model, and it is the best fish & wildlife management model in the world.

Anywho, I will quit rambling.  I just wanted to give you an idea of how much my career and I personally have benefited by getting to work in the same office as Larry Hutchinson.  I know Larry will be busy in his retirement; he has a lot of family waiting to spend time with him, I know he will continue to be involved in fish & wildlife conservation, and I know he loves to fly-fish.  I am sure we will see him around the office from time to time, but in between those times we will miss his dry wit, sly smile, knowledge and wisdom.

It has been an honor to work with you, Hutch.  Enjoy your retirement, but don’t be a stranger.  May the fish always rise to your flies!

A Long Pine brown trout thankful for "Yoda's" dedication to the resource!

Bowling Lake by whitetips
June 16, 2010, 9:54 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

Tonight we are having a big “re-opening” celebration/Family Fishing Night at Bowling Lake here in Lincoln, .  This will be a celebration of the Aquatic Habitat Project completed at Bowling, as well as a chance to get together and do some fishing!

We are darned proud of our Aquatic Habitat Program!  I can tell you that Bowling Lake was a shallow and muddy with rough fish and lots of skinny crappie before the Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation Project.  There is NO comparison now; the water quality, habitat and fishing now is 100% better, without a doubt.  Here are some of the goals we had when the Bowling project was being planned and the work that was done to meet those goals.

Goal #1: Improve the Water Clarity to an average of 2 feet

  1. Remove rough fish and restock with largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish.
  2. Reduce areas of active shoreline erosion
  3. Replaced water delivery system to filter undesirable fish from Oak Creek.  New pump will fill lake in approximately 40 days.

Goal #2: Improve Shoreline Access

  1. Developed 6,000 linear feet of shoreline access with jetties, angler shelves, and shoreline reshaping.
  2. Removed large pieces of concrete with rebar and wire.
  3. Shoreline stabilized with the addition of 3,000 tons of rock rip rap.

Goal #3: Increase Lake Depth and Aquatic Habitat Diversity

  1. Increased the average depth from 5 to 8.5 feet.
  2. Increased the maximum depth from 6 to 20 feet.
  3. Increased the number of acres with depths greater than 10 feet to 10 acres (~1/3 of lake).
  4. Developed 4 acres of wetland areas to reduce erosion and improve fish spawning habitat,
  5. Total amount of lake bottom material moved was 200,000 cubic yards (a football field piled over 40 feet high) of which 120,000 cubic yards was hauled out and off site.

The fact that I like the best is that the average depth of Bowling Lake right now is deeper than the maximum depth before the rehabilitation project!  Now when we do an Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation project our goal is NOT to just deepen the lake, reservoir, pit or pond.  Lots of deep water is not necessarily good fish habitat, and Bowling Lake was not just deepened.  Good fish habitat has a blend of shallow and deep water, diversity, and that is one thing you will notice at Bowling.  There is still plenty of shallow water there, but we also significantly deepened certain areas.

Anyway, there will be lots going on at Bowling tonight.  Fishing equipment will be there for those who may not have their own; grab a kid and come on out!  Festivities start at 5:00 and will last until 8:00; I will be there!

Flooding by whitetips
June 15, 2010, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , , , ,

If you live anywhere in Nebraska you are aware of the flooding that is occurring right now in many parts of the state.  I have heard some references to this being “the worst ever” and in some parts of the state I am sure it is probably as bad as it has ever been.  But, this is life in the Great Plains.  Remember how dry it was just a few years ago?  Our weather patterns are always changing; it has been wet before, will be wet again; it has been dry before, will be dry again.

There is no doubt there are going to be damages and some things will not be fixed for weeks, maybe months.  Some folks will suffer loss from all of this, and we feel for you.  Our fisheries will be impacted too.  Unfortunately there have been some waters like Lake Ericson where the dam was washed away and who knows if that will ever be the same again?  Goose Lake has extremely high water levels right now.  Carp exclusion structures were built at Goose Lake when the Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation Project was completed a few years ago, , and those structures were designed to be higher than a certain amount of flooding, but I am afraid what we have now is way beyond that and there may be carp re-invading Goose Lake and other waters even as I type this.  We will see what fisheries look like after all of this and manage them accordingly.

Please do not think I am cavalier about all of the flooding and the problems it causes, but I want to point out that there are some benefits to our fisheries.

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Clear Water by whitetips
June 3, 2010, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: ,

About a month ago I made a post about fishing in waters where the water was high and dirty, .  This past week I spent most of my time fishing interstate lakes, fished 6 different interstate lakes and caught 9 different species of fish (you can see some of that report here,  I know some of you who live in eastern Nebraska might have a hard time believing this, but there are waters in Nebraska that have very good water clarity, all the time.  Most of the Interstate 80 lakes in Nebraska have excellent water quality.  On the last interstate lake we fished last weekend, I was watching a pair of largemouth bass on a spawn bed in at least 8 feet of water!  Clear water presents its own fishing challenges.  I grew up fishing interstate lakes, and over the years I may have an observation or strategy or two that can help you catch fish in clear water.

Not my largest, but an interstate lake smallmouth bass from a few years ago.

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