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Thread: Trout Mortality

  1. #41
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Alcoa, TN

    Default Link

    This link specifically describes some of the issues Byron has already mentioned. Highlighting, if you will, several comments already stated by Byron that make a tremendous amount of common sense! This is specifically in reference to Brookies written by a few individual's who should know Trout Unlimited!

    I also found this article written by a biologist on the matter in a slightly different matter! He is attempting to teach fisherman on "Reading water". He clearly outlines the essentials behind water temperatures and dissolved oxygen and how this directly affect's fish! As you make your way through the first part of the article you'll come upon, "Rest a fish", which translates to "When to leave the already weary fish lie!"

    Here's the link

    Someone may have already posted one of these two, and I commend all of those whom have done there research! Kudo's to you!

    Praying for rain!

  2. #42
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Tullahoma, TN

    Default Trout Everywhere

    I like this thread. It has inspired some board members. It has encouraged research and has forced into play the term scientist fear the most - "common senseĒ. Even scientific research has its flaws. One of the most renowned scientist of the day recently announced that his conclusions were wrong. We need scientific research, but we need to recognize its weaknesses as well, and stop teaching theory as fact, rather than theory. Also, we need to insert a little common sense into picture.

    If water temperatures and oxygen levels do not impact trout, I think we should stock every stream in Tennessee.
    Don Winningham

    I don't live just to fish, but I want to fish just as long as I live.

  3. #43
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Maryville, TN


    I've read back over the posts that have been written by everyone and its been a great topic of discussion. Its interesting that after all of these posts there are a few themes that have developed.
    • Reading through all of the studies and all of our anecdotal experiences, it appears the optimal temp range of trout is 54-64 degrees (growth and feeding).
    • It also appears that 66-72 is the range that trout start to get stressed, and 75-77 degrees starts to be come lethal.
    • There are regional variations due primarily through adaptations to environmental conditions, although the range is probably only 2-3 degrees.
    • Low water conditions compound the issue, through higher fluctuations in temperature, lower DO and destruction of food sources
    All that being said, and all the "common sense" that really agrees with the majority of the studies cited on this thread point to what Byron really has been saying:
    • Don't fish if the water temp is above 66
    • Regardless of temp, don't unnecessarily play a fish
    • Use a wet hand when you handle the fish
    • Do your best to revive the fish before release
    • This last point is mine (and I'm sure many will disagree with), I hate seeing a picture of a fish laying on a rock, particularly in this weather. Pictures are nice, but don't overly stress a fish, if you're not going to harvest it.
    On a personal note. I fished this weekend up around 4000' and found the fishing to be good. The water temp started at 61 degrees (10am) and was 64 degrees at 4pm. The fish were active and plentiful, where we were, but quite honestly I was not as enthusiastic as I would have been, if the water level was higher. I found myself just sitting and watching on several occasions, just to see how the brookies were behaving. They seemed to be fine, but the water up high looks like it dropped at least 12 inches since the last rain at the beginning of Aug.

    Lets keep praying for rain and cooler temps. It might be nice if Dean took a hard right turn and headed our way...although hoping to get hit by a hurricane sounds like a really bad idea on the surface...

  4. #44
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Covington, Louisiana/Cosby, TN


    Quote Originally Posted by PeteCz View Post
    I It might be nice if Dean took a hard right turn and headed our way...although hoping to get hit by a hurricane sounds like a really bad idea on the surface...
    No offense, but I'm glad that thing is not going anywhere near us. I just finished the last of my Katrina repairs. While the remnants would be just what the mountains ordered (and I hope the mountains get something like that to break the drought), here near this section of coast we don't need a CAT 5 storm right now.

  5. #45
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Lexington, Kentucky



    Thank you for your concern. The medical term, I believe, is coccyx. And it's kind of funny, but only when it happens to somebody else.

    My point on the fish pond observation was that the fish were apparently seeking oxygen more than cooler water. So in a steep stream with lots of aeration and a temperature of 70 degrees, the fish would get more oxygen regardless of the water temperature. Perhaps they would be less stressed than the same fish in a still pool with a temperature of 66 degrees?

    It's probably an academic question, whether it would be better now to fish steep streams with more aeration. I tend to agree that fishing has little effect, long-term, on the trout population.

  6. #46
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Townsend, Tennessee


    Hi Barbara,

    It's funny, I just talked to my sister Barbara who also lives in Lexington. She goes by Barbie Begley. We grew up in Boonesborough and Richmond. Barbie has been living in Lexington since she attended Transylvania in the late 60's. She also attended Sayre School.

    I think it would be better to fish high gradient streams because they do have more oxygen. That is just an un-scientific guess on my part.

    Also, I read somewhere that fish require more oxygen when they are digesting food. You might want to cut back on the food you feed your fish until your pond cools down. I would ask an expert or look it up on the internet before changing their diet.

    Glad you are doing well. I saw that you have been in the store lately and thank you very much for that.


  7. #47
    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Default wow

    What a response! I want to emphasize that my point in starting this thread was to attempt to come to a good idea about when/when not to fish under these conditions in the Southern Appalachians, not necessarily to win an argument, although no one ever likes to loose one. I would certainly respect, say, Yellowstone closures, and hope that they would come to those decisions with good logic. I am saddened that, if our biologists feel the same as the Yellowstone folks, that they have not put closures on our streams too.

    Byron, been in your store several times. I'm a pretty low key guy, though. I like Townsend, although I only make it there perhaps once or twice a year the last few. All the growth there makes me think it'll wind up looking like Pigeon Forge, which is not something I would like. And your 3 geriatric anglers refusing to fish at all actually makes more sense to me than say, fishing up till noon and then quitting.

    Plateau Angler, I want to make it clear that I do believe that warm water can hurt and kill fish. My questions, are, again, how warm, and how much does it hurt? Obviously, a study showing trout grow best in 65-75 degree water is directly opposed to your 65 claim. I feel the low water may play a much larger role, although that is simply a gut feeling, which is sometimes all you have to go on, a point that many posters have made. And beyond all this is my point that I don't feel it matters much even if a lot of these fish end up dying, since what limits trout biomass here is the water productivity, not the 65 percent weather mortality, nor whatever killing anglers contribute. Most fish in the Smokies die every year. There is as much trout biomass in the Smokies as the system will hold, and if that goes temporarily out of skew, it will come back to the norm in the form of bigger fish this Fall or more smaller fish this Spring. I know I'm repeating myself, but I know this thread has become so long that points I made earlier are getting lost. I want yall all to know that I DO CARE about the trout, but the near hysteria growing over this issue seems overblown to me. Now, I admit, the stress on the fish (and me for bringing up this thread!) seems to be getting pretty bad. I hope that the conditions improve soon, just like all of you.

    And I want to make it clear that I respect your decision not to fish. I think that is a heart felt, and well-reasoned view, although I disagree with it, in the case of productivity-limited fisheries like the Smokies. This thread could have been a lot shorter if I had simply not mentioned temperature or low water, and simply said, "I don't think anglers have much of an impact on the Smokies' trout population."

    Brookiefly, now THAT is what I've been wanting to see! I'll look those over when I get time. Maybe something in there will change my opinion!

    John, your post made me laugh. Despite how mean I must seem to everyone right now, it makes me feel bad to hook a fish through the eyeball too. And 93! Burrrrrrrrrrrrr it sure is cold!

    Gerry, well, sorry, I guess. I'll be happy to provide sources for that data, if I can find them again. I didn't anticipate my credibility being challenged, although I probably should have. The study you attacked most is availble here:

    link to pdf

    Like you say, no study is perfect, and this one has warts too, although I think it is a pretty good study. I'm not sure if you are saying that I should just trust someone like you's opinion, or whether I should try to understand it for myself. You seem to be saying that I'm wrong for bringing up a thread like this, when like I keep saying, all I want is to find out as much truth as I can. Gerry, your statement,

    "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"

    makes me feel like Karl Rove or Michael Moore has just attacked me, going for the throat of an opponent rather than discussing an issue. It's quite insulting, which is how you meant it to be. I'm sorry you feel that way, and will say that no, I've spent a lifetime developing this view, and thought it needed to be subjected to some criticism, as you have so amply supplied. I'm proud that I bring forward my controversial opinions, which after being subject to the flame of other people looking at it, will either stand or fall. In either case, I'll be better off, and maybe those involved in attacking it will be too. I think that when most people hold any controversial opinions, that they share them with no one, not wanting to risk this kind of personal attack. I'm not most people, so fire away! BTW, although I find you very arrogant as well, I feel your comment about milk is a very interesting one. I think your elders may question your questioning of milk.

    And you noticed the Snail Darter thing, eh? Yes, I think that whole ridiculous situation showed a lot of what's wrong with us. When I see modern people arguing about things, I often think about what happened there. It is an interesting and complex story which everyone should read. Since you bring it up, I'd say mostly that I'm about 80% environmentalist, and about 90% anti-PETA, and with 100% conviction have a strong desire to acquire the best logic that I can to discover truth.

    Fisherman's Fly, more good research. Thank you!

    Donwinn, I think the comment "If water temperatures and oxygen levels do not impact trout, I think we should stock every stream in Tennessee" mischaracterizes what I've said, and you know it. PLEASE read what I've said before. Let me summarize it. I DON'T THINK THAT ANGLERS ANGLING IN THE SMOKIES RIGHT NOW ARE GOING TO CAUSE MUCH OF AN EFFECT ON ITS TROUT FISHERY, WHETHER THEY KILL SOME FISH OR NOT. If I'm wrong, then there will be value in that, because we will all be wiser after this bad drought, and you'll all know not to listen to an idiot like me. I'll come back on this forum and shout to everyone from the highest hill that I WAS WRONG! If I'm RIGHT, however, I somehow doubt that many people would listen to me, or would be willing to change what was an incorrect opinion.

    Pete, good post. I will be surprised if I conclude the same as you, but good post.

    Barbara and Byron (again), yes, don't feed your fish in the hot afternoon or evening. It will sap the D.O. right out. If you feed them, do so early in the morning. And yes, it is a known fact that a high gradient stream is going to have higher D.O. at the same temp than a calm river or lake.

    I'm going to do something that I hope everyone appreciates. I'm going to try to track down some of the local fisheries biologists and get their opinions on the matter. They really see a lot more trout than even the best guides ever see. I'll post what I find, although I'm headed out of town for 2 weeks come Friday, so please don't be too upset if it takes a while. I suspect, should any of their opinions be controversial, they may want anonymity.

    ALSO, this thread is consuming my life! I'm going to have to back off it a bit. Maybe come back no more than every other day until it calms down some.

    Everyone, be well. And hope for some rain soon.

  8. #48
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Hillbilly Hollow, NC


    I've fished the smokies a long time, maybe 45 years. I have never seen worse conditions in the park. 1986 &1987 were bad, but not this bad. I look at the USGS site on current water flows in NC almost daily. I noticed today that Cataloochee is the lowest it has ever been for this date, and they have been keeping records for 63 years. There are several others I am sure.

    Add to that we are on pace to have the hottest Aug on record. I don't need a PHD in any thing to know the fish are stressed from these conditions. We are going to loose a year or maybe two class of fish. With the low water all the small parr that were born this year have no where to hide, they will be eaten. Many of the traditional spawing areas may not have enough water for the browns & brookies to use this year. Forcing them to use unsuitable areas that will effect the success of this year's spawning fish. You can also as Byron stated earlier catch a lot of fish at times under these conditions. If you find fish they will often be stacked up and hungry. Confining the fish to these small areas will increase the competion for food. I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do. About fishing, keeping fish, or anything else. I think that for at least the short term, I'll give em a rest.

    Geriatric may not be the appropriate term for the gentlemen Byron mentioned.
    Last edited by flyman; 08-20-2007 at 06:49 PM. Reason: genetics have been cruel to me
    "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it."
    Salvador Dali

  9. #49
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Tullahoma, TN

    Default snaildarter - apologies


    You have my apology for the mischaracterization of your comments in the thread. That was not my intention. I agree that you were debating the impact of fishing during low water levels and high temperatures.

    I hope, however, that we can agree to disagree without my producing a study to support my opinion. That is all it is, by the way, an opinion. I was simply trying to point out that water temperature does have an impact on trout mortality. Therefore, one could conclude that they are currently under duress. If they are under duress due to low water conditions and high temperatures, I simply donít want to chance increasing that Ė regardless of the overall effect on the trout population in the GSMNP. I am going to be up there this weekend. I may fish in higher altitudes if the water temperatures are down. I am not saying others should not fish. That is their decision. I just respect what Bryon has stressed about being careful in deciding where to fish, in catching, and in releasing fish.

    Now, please donít blast me because I donít have a study to prove that I can have an opinion.
    Don Winningham

    I don't live just to fish, but I want to fish just as long as I live.

  10. #50
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Crossville, TN


    Quote Originally Posted by snaildarter View Post
    Plateau Angler, I want to make it clear that I do believe that warm water can hurt and kill fish. My questions, are, again, how warm, and how much does it hurt? Obviously, a study showing trout grow best in 65-75 degree water is directly opposed to your 65 claim.

    Snaildarter, my claim was not meant to be about optimal trout growth. I am sorry if it came out that way. However, as some people have already alluded to, optimal growth will vary from stream to stream. This the study is not directly opposed to my claim unless it was conducted in the Smokies. For example, if you took a stream like the Firehole in Yellowstone to do this study then optimal trout growth would correspond with the best hatches and thus the most food. The best hatches will occur early in the year before the Firehole gets too warm. Early in the year the Firehole will be in that 65-75 degree range. Too warm would be 75-80 degrees or higher on this stream. Over the generations, the fish in the Firehole have adapted to the warmer than average conditions and can probably survive at higher temperatures than many other trout. Until I see a study that shows that Smoky mountain fish grow best and can survive being caught just fine in the 65-75 degree range, I'll be limited to my personal experience and observation of park fish. Additionally, in your original post where you mention the optimal growth, it mentions that some studies have found mortality increasing in the 65-75 degree range.

    Once again, from personal experience, the fish in the park do not feed as well anytime the water temperature is in the mid 60's or higher. Two summers ago we had much more water. I fished one day on the lower section of LR below the sinks and the only fish I caught all came out of shaded sections and more importantly didn't have nearly the energy to fight that fish in cooler water does. A short drive farther upstream to cooler water produced many more fish that were in much better shape when it came to energy and fight. The stream guage was showing between 150-200 cfs at the time so water levels were great.

    As a strictly catch and release fisherman, I realize I'm getting my jollies at the fishes expense even unintentionally killing some at least occasionally. Accordingly, I make every effort to release those fish in as good of shape as possible. When the water is so warm that the fish I catch go belly up and have no fight in them whatsoever, then I can no longer catch them without having a signifant impact on their lives. This may or may not include killing them but even if they take a couple of days to completely revive then I personally feel that it isn't right. Everyone needs to make decisions for themselves and I respect that just so long as they have their own reasons. The worst is people who have not thought about this and simply go off of what other people say. I would strongly encourage everyone to spend some time thinking about the subject and to come up with some ethical guidelines for yourself, even if you come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter at all. I think the process is important and would like to thank snaildarter for starting this to bring it to people's attention.

    Finally, the Smokies has large fish but definitely not tons of them. If you went and caught the large guys right now and played them to death, it would hurt future trophy fishing opportunities at least in the short term. I'll wait until fall to catch these guys assuming better water conditions and hopefully they'll be released in good shape so I can catch them again next spring.
    "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

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