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Thread: Trout Mortality

  1. #31
    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Default hot water

    Bryon, you seem to be extremely honest and to have good moral character. Are you sure you are a fisherman?

    You may be right about the water levels being lower than you have ever seen them. After researching it a bit, I think I have underestimated the severity of this drought. While it doesn't (yet) show the most horrible economic impacts of some of the past droughts (this drought is not yet a mutli-year one), it has been a historically extremely sharp drought, and has come during a summer of very high temps. The low water bothers me a lot more than the temps. I think, if one is worried about stressing the fish, well, that is already happening, whether one angles or not. It doesn't seem to me that it will make much of a difference whether you quit fishing at noon or not. I think Jack's comments are spot on. If the fish are stressed by this weather pattern for months, it doesn't seem logical that they would magically feel better at 9 a.m. than 2 p.m. And it's not like the low water levels rose overnight either. It isn't the temps or even the stress itself that will kill the fish. It's the disease that sets in from weakened immune systems, and as is always the case in the Smokies, starvation too (and incidentally, the starvation problem will be fixed a little if you kill a few fish). I think a lot of anglers may feel good about quitting fishing early, or fishing higher up, especially when compared to my view of thinking it doesn't really matter much. But I think, if they are really worried about killing fish, that they probably shouldn't feel good about fishing these severe drought conditions at all. This would be yet another interesting study to see, though (fish mortality in stressful conditions vs time of day).

    Another question to ask would be should a person ever fish when the "normal" condition of a section of stream is already stressful? For example, the most upper reaches of a tiny brook trout stream, or the most lower reaches of a warming large river, where in both cases only a few trout can survive. I don't think that most fishermen have a problem going after those particular severely stressed fish.

    Bryon, you said, "some experienced Smokies anglers tell me that they could go out and catch a lot of trout right now and many of them would die." If true, what would they be seeing? Is the trout dead by the time it is reeled in, or by the time it is released? Or does it float up downstream somewhere? Or is it simply a gut feeling, and those anglers actually see nothing? I suspect, maybe, that it's the latter. I think anglers may overestimate the stress they cause by catching, especially for small fish, which is what the Smokies are full of. It is only 30 seconds out of a fish's day, a day when all the other stressors are monstrous in comparison. I can tell you, for darn sure, that any researcher going through the streams right now with a backpack shocker would be causing orders of magnitude more stress on orders of magnitude more fish.

    Pineman19, I don't think the fish will be larger next year should a lot of fish die this summer. As long as the spawns are marginally successful, since the little 2- and 3-inchers can mostly eat the same food as the big ones, the trout biomass should return to normal, although skewed in favor of the smallest fish. In weather related fish kills where an entire spawn is ruined (which is not that uncommon), the remaining fish definitely get larger, as they have more food to eat.

    KYTroutman, your statement, "a little patience now will preserve trout for more ameniable conditions in the future" is a respectable opinion, although not necessarily fact.

    Barbara, I think Bryon is right. Higher temps, lower D.O. In a mountain stream D.O. is never a problem, but in your pond it might be. I say never because I am not aware of a D.O. fish kill in the Smokies' streams ever happening, nor could I even imagine how that could happen. Someone please speak up if you know differently.

    All your contributions to this thread have convinced me that this is a bigger problem than I realized, although not for the temperature reasons, but for the low water. Gosh I wish there were better ways of getting science funded in our country, especially cheap science with wide applicability. And I also wish that the results of the science that does get done were more publicly available. I bet there is a good chance that many of these questions have been answered, but are only found in things like a 1979 master's thesis at some regional college that is either hard to get at or is missing completely.

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Townsend, Tennessee



    Not all fishermen lie! OK, maybe I'll add 10% to the length or weight but no more than that.

    You make good points and write them well. If you would read today's fishing report it might better explain my unscientific opinion. I said something like this: "When I have caught trout in water that is 70 degrees or higher they don't fight as well and are harder to revive".

    I googled trout mortality and didn't get much. It may be hard to pinpoint the threshhold between temperature and mortality through data.

    Last night I searched the house for one of our two copies of "Trout Tactics" by Joe Humphreys. Couldn't find either one. I hope I didn't loan them out too. The answer may lie on those wonderful pages from one of the best fishing books I have ever read. Though Joe is not a biologist, he has a lot of stream experience under his belt.

    In addition to my opinion there are three men who work here in the store who are 60 years old or older and they have been fishing in the Smokies all their lives. They are Walter Babb, Bill Bolinger and Ted Myers. None of them would fish in the Park under these conditions.

    So, I'm sticking with my opinion until you prove me wrong. I just don't think the research has been done. But keep at it, it may be out there and I'm always willing to change.

    This is one of my favorite threads so far. Good job to all.

    And Snaildarter, thank you for the kind words. Maybe I'll meet you some day or maybe I know you well.

    Last edited by Byron Begley; 08-19-2007 at 03:41 PM.

  3. #33
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Crossville, TN


    I have to throw in my two cents. I must preface this with the fact that none of this is a scientific experiment, simply my own observation. Those that want to think that warm water won't hurt a caught fish haven't fished much under those conditions. The most recent personal example was during my trip west. In Colorado I camped at the upper end of Ruedi Reservoir (Frying Pan River impoundment). We were camped where the upper river empties into the lake and at night, the fish would be feeding heavily. I started fishing at night for the first couple of nights we were there but after that you couldn't have made me fish. Why? Despite the fact that the water didn't feel that warm, it was up around 70 degrees. After realizing this I quite fishing because it was hard on the fish. Most of the trout I hooked were small 10-12 rainbows and I had them landed in just a few seconds. However, when I would try to release them, many would go belly up or start to tilt sideways. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that these fish were not doing well. These fish were not played to death in the usual sense of an extremely long fight. Also, I am very careful to keep my fish in the water and to revive them. The water was simply bordering on being too warm. The only reason these fish were out feeding was because it was night and therefore the coolest time of the day. They had to eat sometime. Another fish was landed early in the morning and it had no fight whatsoever as well and definitely didn't rocket back into the depths like a normal fish does upon release.

    Fish start feeding less as the water warms beyond 65 degrees or perhaps a bit warmer. It is very similar to the way they don't feed at extremely cold temperatures, the main difference being that they don't go belly up or act in shock when you release them into cold water. I know this from personal experience. Before I got a thermometer, I knew when the water was getting too warm because my catch rates were down. I would drive to a higher elevation and be into lots of fish as simple as that.

    Personally, I will not be fishing the park until conditions improve and that includes both cooler and more water. There are plenty of healthy fish in our tailwaters that are more than willing to eat a fly and these fish have lots of cool water at their disposal.
    "Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19

    Guided Fly Fishing with David Knapp
    The Trout Zone Blog
    contact: TroutZoneAnglers at gmail dot com

  4. #34
    Join Date
    Aug 2007

    Default Trout Mortality

    Some studies to consider :

    These are a few I found, some with applications that can be extrapolated to trout populations here. The last link is expecially interesting, as it is a literature review on thermal impacts on brown trout. Hope the links work for you.

    (First time posting, hope to enjoy good discussions like these)

  5. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Knoxville, TN



    Glad you are back, I have also decided to join the bandwagon. I usually fish in marginal temperatures and I haven't found any ethical problems with it until this year. This drought and in combination with warm temps is just too much. I quit last weekend. We did find fishable water and I see no problem fishing up high as the temp were 63 or so, but every day without rain is adding to the problem. If we had some water I would continue to fish but now I see no point in it. If you do fish please take the fish home and eat it, don't throw it back. It might sound bad but we need to think about PETA and others. They will gain a momentum if they can prove that we do not only play with the fish we also enjoy seeing them suffer. Please understand I don't have a problem if you fish just make sure you are either using that fish or find water with cool temp and some flow to it.

    I'm hoping the HI is still cold next weekend. Until then.......

  6. #36
    Join Date
    Aug 2007


    Another good site I missed in my research.

    Good section on temps and brown trout, in a geography closer than the other studies.

  7. #37
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Covington, Louisiana/Cosby, TN


    I was supposed to be up there this weekend, to look at property - of course, I would get a little fishing in, too. I'm glad I scrubbed the trip until next weekend - at least there's a chance for the mountains to get a little rain, although one week of scattered showers really won't help that much. It's amazing to see the satellite loops, particularly the water vapor loops; I've been looking at them mostly in keeping an eye on Dean (if that storm came close to us, I would have to do a lot of preparation/backup type actions at work...we learned our lesson after Katrina, and now we have backup servers in Shreveport). Anyway, it's almost like East Tennessee is the only area with no moisture flowing into it; there are showers all around the pheriphery of the area, but they're all moving away from the mountains. Sooner or later, the pattern will change, though - and Fall isn't far away, at least for y'all...just have to get through a little more of the "dog days".

    As for keeping some fish for the table...not a bad idea at all - of course, the problem is all those 5-6 inch fish that are so common.

  8. #38
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Stressed fish

    There a lot of fish in these streams that the best of us never manage to interest in our fraudulent offerings. We make the fishing game as hard as possible because the rest of it got boring. When the water gets warm the fish settle down and sulk, very few of the larger fish will even think about eating. Streams get cleaned out by meat hunters and particularly those using bait...... which trout can home in on and eat without hesitation, because they smell the meal.
    I fish when I can get there, sometimes the conditions are ideal, usually they are not. I may or may not catch fish, but I will be fishing, and from that I get alot of relaxation! I feel guilty when I get a little trout through the eye on a big nymph. Or if I don't revive one enough and it goes belly up and sinks where I cannot reach it, that has happened one time this year.
    Just heard it will be 93 tomorrow, I think I better break out the turtleneck.
    Tight lines!,

  9. #39
    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Default Lies, **** lies, and statistics...

    First I want to thank brookiefly for providing some sane and comprehensive research to this discussion.

    I want to go back to where this all started. I believe that snaildarter, in the very first post in this thread, offered us some "statistics":

    " - In the Park, 65% of trout die from weather related events every year
    - In a study on the Gallatin, of 172 fish that were caught between the temperatures of 45 and 73 F, only one fish died within 72 hours of being caught.
    - A study showing Brown Trout growth was maximal at temperatures between 65 and 75 F (the author noted that some other investigators found trout mortality increasing at these temperatures, and he guessed that maybe trout in warmer climates have genes for surviving warmer temperatures).
    - Wild trout survive high temperatures better than stockers (duh)
    - Lahontan Cutthroats live in relatively hot areas for trout, and have near zero mortality even when temperatures climb to 79 F for an hour a day
    - Another study showing about the same thing with Bonneville Cuts "

    As Mark Twain said, there are "lies, **** lies, and statistics". (He was actually accurately attributing that thought to someone else and I find it inherently ironic that, today, the quote is generally attributed to him.)

    Let's take a look at just one of those "statistics":

    "- In a study on the Gallatin, of 172 fish that were caught between the temperatures of 45 and 73 F, only one fish died within 72 hours of being caught."

    Okay. How many of you have ever fished a daily water temperature variant of 28 degrees Fahrenheit? Nobody?? So we must assume that the "study" cited covers some period of time other than one day. Not very scientific so far. How many seasons did the study cover? Was there a spawning season in there? Are we talking about a water temperature variant or are we talking about an atmospheric temperature variant? Can't tell from the information provided. How many fish were caught below 73 F? Can't tell. Was that one fish that died the one fish that was caught at 73 F, while 171 fish were caught between say 45 and 60 F? Who knows?? How long was that one fish played? How much was it handled before being released? Was any attempt made to revive it before returning it to the stream? Can't tell and we'll probably never know since no sources were cited for us to check out.

    This is what comes from a few minutes of googling?? An entire stream ethic is developed based on a few minutes of googling?!

    I find this appalling and incredibly arrogant.

    Unfortunately, I also find it very human.

    What's lacking from this discussion is common sense. Common sense would seem to dictate that if we abuse a resource in the here and now, that resource will not be available to us in the future. Common sense would also seem to say that if we conserve and protect a resource in the here and now, that resource will be available to us in the future.

    Even if it is merely anecdotal, the opinions of those who have decades of observations surely must be given some weight as opposed to a few
    minutes of googling around.

    I mean, if somebody who has grown up in the park says that these are the worst conditions for the fish that he/she has ever seen, how much of an imposition is it to just NOT FISH for a couple days or weeks?? Does it offend some innate sense of superiority or species dominance to just take a week off??

    Thanks to brookiefly, we now have some scientific information that supports the anecdotal information. No, the studies do not offer up "numbers" of fish dying as a result of being caught within a wide temperature range. The studies cited offer specific information regarding the influence of temperature and dissolved oxygen content on growth and mortality in trout populations in specific waters. Extrapolation of the specific information is easy when you understand the scope of the information and the breadth of the geographic area covered by the various studies. And the cited "scientific" information also would appear to validate much of what the Old Timers have reported anecdotally about feeding habits and migration patterns.

    So maybe we do need to listen to our elders.

    If we think we know it all, I would ask the following.

    Is it true that humans are the only species on the planet that regularly and consistently drinks the milk of another species?

    Food for thought.

    Gerry Romer

  10. #40
    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Default Googling

    Just for fun, I spent a few minutes googling the phrase "snail darter" since it has a local history that many outside of East Tennessee wouldn't necessarily know about. It all had to do with the building and completion of a dam on the Little Tellico River...

    Here's an excerpt from what came up in the first couple hits on google - through wikipedia: “the snail darter had become almost a household word, and in current usage ‘snail darter types’ is approximately synonymous with ‘ultra-liberal environmental activists.’”

    Ultra-liberal environmental activist?? Our snaildarter?

    Gerry Romer

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