Barbs and Backlashes

Reservoir Updates, May 26, 2010 by whitetips
May 26, 2010, 10:26 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , ,

Some quick updates on what is happening with some of our reservoir fisheries . . . .

Red Willow

No big changes at Red Willow, water is still at minimum pool and is going to stay there for awhile.  The last I heard they are working on extending the boat ramp on the south side and plan to have that operational by Memorial Day weekend (which is this coming weekend!).

Hedgefield and Iron Horse Trail

Habitat work continues on both of these reservoirs.  I know some of the spring precipitation that we have had slowed progress, but they are working as fast as they can.  If all goes well, both of these projects should finish up by this fall.  Then we will see how much water is present and we can begin re-stocking fish as soon as there is enough water to keep them alive.

Here are some pictures of the work being done at Hedgefield.  These pictures are from early this spring; the last time I was out there was after some heavy thunderstorms and it appeared that the reservoir was half full again.  Water was being pumped out at that time so the contractors could get back to work.

I was impressed with the amount of work being done at Hedgefield.  I can guarantee that when the work is done Hedgefield will be on its way to being back better than ever!

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Award Winning by whitetips
May 20, 2010, 12:36 pm
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I should have posted this a few weeks ago, after the March commission meeting, but I am just now getting around to it.

Anywho, one of our Aquatic Habitat Projects, won an engineering award!

Actually the engineering firm that did the design work for us received the award, but it was for our project!  Seriously, our Aquatic Habitat Program is the first one in any state that is dedicated entirely to the enhancement of aquatic habitat in existing public waters.  Our Aquatic Habitat Program has been in existence for 13 years now and there is not an area in the state where we have not had at least one project that improved water quality, aquatic habitat and FISHING!  And I have to say THANK YOU to all of our anglers who have funded and continue to fund the Aquatic Habitat Program through the purchase of the Aquatic Habitat Stamp when the program first started and now through the purchase of fishing permits (part of the permit price is dedicated to the Aquatic Habitat Program).

Pre-project aerial photo of Cunningham, note the dirty water from the north arm all the way to the dam.

Post-project aerial photo of Cunningham; again note the water clarity. Clean water will produce more fish!

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“Blinded me with science”, Feb. 25, 2010 by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
February 25, 2010, 2:41 pm
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Let me give you another summary of some Nebraska fisheries research that has been done and some that is still ongoing.

Our Game & Parks headquarters office sits on the west edge of the East Campus of the University of Nebraska here in Lincoln.  We frequently interact with the wildlife and fisheries professors and their students which are also here on East Campus.  I will admit that I do not get to spend as much time keeping up with fisheries research and all of the fisheries professional literature as I would like, so I love the opportunities we have to interact with the faculty and students here at the University of Nebraska.  I am always learning something from them.  A couple of those guys came over a few weeks ago to give us an update on some research that is still in progress.

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“Blinded Me with Science”–December 2009 by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
December 21, 2009, 3:00 pm
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I have another summary of some fisheries research work that has been done in Nebraska.  We had a major Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation Project that was completed at Sherman Reservoir a couple of years ago,  Part of that project included the addition of rock rip rap to protect shorelines and bays and there were also some walleye spawning reefs placed just south of the dam.  Jordan Katt spent a couple, three years evaluating the use of those spawning reefs as part of his Master’s research at the University of Nebraska–Kearney.

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Reservoir Updates by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
December 18, 2009, 10:25 am
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I do not know how many Nebraska anglers heard the news that some areas of erosion were found on the Red Willow dam this fall.  The water level at Red Willow is being lowered as low as it can go, and it will stay at that level until the problem is resolved.  How long that will take, or what will be done, I have no idea.  All I can tell you is that you can stay updated here, .

Yes, the Red Willow fishery will suffer.  I always say that “fish need water” and with less water in Red Willow Reservoir there will be less fish.  I am sure some fish have already left the reservoir with the water that is being released.  However, there will still be some good fishing at Red Willow in 2010.  Just keep in mind that there will only be a few hundred acres of water and access may be a challenge.


Lake Ogallala was also drawn down this fall as low as it could go.  The power district that owns the reservoir has been doing some dredging work that will improve water circulation in Lake Ogallala and that will provide some modest improvements in water quality.

I do not know all the details of the work being done at Lake Ogallala, but I have some photos of the work that was done this fall.  I know one thing they did was to widen and deepen the “narrows” area between the north and south basins.

I also know that they dredged a channel that will allow water to move from the south basin into the the Keystone basin.

I think you can see that those changes will affect fishing patterns in Lake Ogallala in the future.  Successful anglers are anglers who are flexible and can adapt to conditions that are always changing.

Fish Need Water by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
October 11, 2009, 10:00 am
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Nebraska is smack in the middle of the Great Plains.  One thing inhabitants of this region have learned is that the weather is extreme.  There will be periods of above normal precipitation and periods of drought.  We all know that recent years have been an extended drought that has negatively impacted the fisheries in many of our Nebraska waters.  Simply put some of our reservoirs have had years where the volume of water has been significantly lower.  What impact does that have?  Well, how many minnows can you keep alive in a 5-gallon bucket?  Then, how many minnows can you keep alive in a 1-gallon bucket?

The good news is things have improved significantly in the past couple of years.  For example, for the first time in over 5 years plans are to use Elwood for irrigation deliveries next year.  That means that unless plans change, Elwood will be nearly full of water by the first of June next year.  Water is flowing into Elwood right now, it has come up over 10 feet already this fall!

Have not seen this for a long time, too long.  We will take it!

Have not seen this for a long time, too long. We will take it!

Look at all the flooded vegetation!  That is great fish habitat!

Look at all the flooded vegetation! That is great fish habitat!

Ironically, fishing can still be very good while water levels recede–fish become more concetrated and can have less natural prey to eat and that can make the fishing easy.  We will actually “pay the price” for low water levels and less fish when water levels recover.  I will make this prediction right now–fishing at Elwood is going to be tough for awhile.  The reduced number of fish will now have an expanding habitat to disperse into and that habitat will have a ton of flooded cover.  All of that flooded cover will be extremely productive and there will soon be lots and lots of prey items for those fish to eat.  The result is going to be some challenging fishing conditions, but in the long run we will take the water and the fishery will benefit!

Flooded terrestrial vegetation (e.g. cockleburrs, smartweed, willows, cottonwoods) is ideal habitat for panfish species, bass and northern pike.  We should have a few years coming at Elwood where there will be a boom in the fishing for those species.  If water levels stay higher than they were during the drought, if water level management at Elwood is more like it used to be, eventually there will be a lot less flooded vegetation and habitat conditions will change.  Then the walleyes, wipers, and catfish will again thrive.  Elwood’s muskies do well in both the flooded cover and the open-water habitat.

This is great news.  I have long considered Elwood Reservoir to be one of the top fisheries in the state.  I have dried off a darned lot of good fish from Elwood over the years.  During the drought there were fears that we could lose the entire fishery.  Thankfully efforts were made, and money was spent, to put at least some water in Elwood when possible to keep some fish alive.  For now things are looking up, and I look forward to many more successful trips to Elwood!

One of my biggest walleyes; caught from Elwood a few years ago.

One of my biggest walleyes; caught from Elwood a few years ago.


Fish Need Water by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
June 18, 2009, 3:12 pm
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One of my sarcastic replies when asked how drought or low water levels affect fish populations is “fish need water”!  Water is the most basic habitat requirement for fish.  Nebraska is a great plains state where most of our water bodies are man-made, many of them reservoirs or impoundments of some kind.  “Life on the Great Plains” means we will have wet cycles and dry cycles.  Water levels in our reservoirs will always fluctuate and those fluctuations will have a dramatic impact on fish populations!

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