Friday, November 6, 2009

Last summer's flood likely a boost for fish

island in Pipestone Bay
When you live and breathe fishing the way we do here at Bow Narrows Camp the conversation always turns to how whatever weather condition we are experiencing will affect fish populations.

Last summer saw the highest water levels on record for mid-July to mid-September; so what will that do for fishing next year?

It actually should be wonderful. Fish and virtually all other aquatic organisms ultimately benefit from fluctuating water levels provided their annual spawning activities aren't disturbed.

Last year's flood came mid-summer well after northern pike and walleye had spawned in May and was gone by late-September before the lake trout spawned in October.

The benefit comes from the influx of nutrients during the high water and then the aeration and scouring of the bottom by waves in low water. This increases the productivity of this zone of the lake for such things as aquatic vegetation. Water weeds love this fluctuation in water levels. The worst thing for a lake is for the level to remain static as this leads to a decline in weed growth. At least that is the case for relatively cold water lakes such as Red Lake and most other lakes in the Boreal Forest. It might be a different story in the South where too much weed growth can become a problem.

Up here weeds are highly desired as they provide cover for a host of aquatic creatures, from tiny invertebrates to larger things like dragonfly nymphs and of course, minnows and young game fish.

We should see increased weed growth next summer around the edges of the deep bays like Pipestone and the Potato Island basin. It might even be similar to the years soon after a forest fire burned off the north shore of Pipestone Bay in 1986. As any angler knows northern pike fishing blossomed in that region of the lake for years afterwards as deep weedbeds appeared off the sandy shores of this bay.

Shallow bays, or course, continued to produce good weed growth, depending on water temperatures -- more weeds in warm summers and fewer in cold periods.

Another benefit from all the rain last summer is that it provided tons of food for fish in the way of insects and worms.

Fish surveys by the Ministry of Natural Resources last fall showed there is a very large population of young walleye in the lake and this age group in particular should have received a tremendous boost by the extra food sources.

Our expectation is to have a bumper population of eating-sized walleyes next summer in addition to our usual group of lunkers that always provide thrills.

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