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Old 07-23-2012, 03:53 PM
waterwolf waterwolf is offline
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Default Clinch Fish Health

Over the last week I have fished the lower end of the Clinch several times, and after not being on the river since mid-March I was stunned by how poor the fish over 14" look. They are in the worst condition I have ever seen them, extremely skinny and appear to be near death or recovering from a near death experience.

Has anyone else noticed this? I have probably had my hands on 40 fish in the 14"-18" size range in a couple of days in the last week and every one looked terrible.

Would love to hear opinions on what would cause this? Was it the low water for so long? Was it the sediment load in the river during the low water? Was it the lack of a large sulphur hacth? Illness in the river? Or all the above.

Just curious what other folks are seeing and opinions.
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Old 07-24-2012, 04:06 PM
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Wilson10 Wilson10 is offline
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Wish I knew, but its been FOREVER since I've been able to go. Last time I was out there was up river and fish were pretty healthy. That was over a month ago.

Your post isn't too encouraging though... :/

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Old 07-24-2012, 04:43 PM
waterwolf waterwolf is offline
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Originally Posted by Wilson10 View Post
Wish I knew, but its been FOREVER since I've been able to go. Last time I was out there was up river and fish were pretty healthy. That was over a month ago.

Your post isn't too encouraging though... :/
Like you, I have fished the river for longer than I can remember and have never, not one time seen the fish in such poor condition.

A buddy of mine had told me that he had been seeng this in the larger fish, and I had no idea it was so bad until I saw it first hand.

Really sad, if I return to the Clinch it will be above PO.
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:38 PM
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David Knapp David Knapp is offline
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Waterwolf, out of curiosity did you check any weeds or rocks or anything for insect life? Are the fish just starving from lack of food? Sounds disturbing, especially since the Clinch has fished well the past couple of years. Hope it improves and the fish are able to survive...
"Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19

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Old 07-24-2012, 05:50 PM
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Flat Fly n Flat Fly n is offline
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Their stressed out from the stripers! HA! Are you talking about that black film on the scales of some of the fish?

Who knows? Not enough sowbugs and scuds in the water as their used to be when we had tremendous growth rates IMO. Too many midges overall as a dominant percentage population as there once was. My theory is, they are working too hard for the calories they are taking in. The caloric intake of a scud far exeeds that of a lowly midge.

Time for some more water testing. IF we don't police the river, who will? Norris continues to grow in housing and people, and it's all drained into the Clinch.

Benthic Macroinvertebrates

The benthic (bottom-dwelling) macroinvertebrates supported by a stream are a great indicator of overall stream health due to their variable tolerance of pollution. Generally speaking, mayflies (Ephemeroptera), stoneflies (Plecoptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera), and riffle beetle larvae (Coleoptera) require a relatively pristine environment. Macroinvertebrates highly tolerant of pollution include midge larvae (Diptera), snails (Gastropoda), leeches (Hirundinea), and aquatic worms (Oligochaeta). Organisms such as scuds (Amphipoda), clams (Bivalvia), crayfish (Decapoda), cranefly larvae (Diptera), and aquatic sowbugs (Isopoda), are somewhat tolerant, and are found in a wide variety of water conditions.......High diversity and numbers of macroinvertebrates indicate good water quality conditions, whereas presence of only pollution tolerant species or absence of macroinvertebrates suggests a degraded environment

and the above bold is about all we have now in the Clinch except for a few sulphurs. Time for a good leech pattern! Oh crap, I gave that away! Back in the late 80's and early 90's the river was full of scuds, sowbugs. But maybe the upstream development is hurting the food source?

I know I have posted this before but this was taken at autopsy from a trout on the Clinch years ago. When is the last time anybody has seen "tailing" fish working a weed bed? It was common back in the late 80's. They would nose into the weeds then back up and catch the scuds and sowbugs as they floated downstream.
I am a great admirer of spectator sports, especially on television; it keeps the riffraff off the trout streams.

Last edited by Flat Fly n; 07-24-2012 at 09:23 PM..
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Old 07-24-2012, 10:13 PM
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Rockyraccoon Rockyraccoon is offline
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I've noticed some skinny fish, Not necessarily snakey, but maybe a little lighter than normal on some fish. I have seen a noticeable difference in fish from the hot access areas as compared to those found throughout the river. Some fish show obvious hand prints from handling. This is often a sign that somethings not right in the river. Healthy fish always appear slick, shiny, and vibrant. The "marked" fish often have discoloration, even a dark tint that looks parasitic and poor scales. This certainly isn't the case for all the fish....but it's apparent on others.

I've seen hand prints many times on the Hiwassee. It happens in when we see hard droughts in the watershed and see the water temps creep near 70. When this happens, Dissolved Oxygen directly correlates to higher water temps.

Tailwaters seem to cycle IMHO.

So many factors go into a healthy tailwater that it can be hard to pinpoint issues when they arise. The Clinch always seems to have a good hold on the most critical issue, that of water temperatures. As long as the water comes off the bottom of Norris Lake....water temps should not be a problem. Obviously, a spilling event over the top of Norris Dam could influence water temperatures depending on time of year etc. So far this year, I've not gotten a temperature higher than 56 degrees anywhere on the river.

Dissolved oxygen could be playing a part in the the fish health. The Clinch does not have a lot of shoals and riffles to help add oxygen to the river as it flows. So basically, the highest DO will be closer to the dam and will slowly fall off as it flows down river. This of course is debatable, perhaps some DO monitors could be placed periodically along the river to monitor this and to know if it's an issue or not.

The food base of the river will rise and fall with any water quality issues. I've noticed some really thick hatches this year, and some that are sporadic to non-existent. I think the declining scud/sow bug numbers over the years is a direct result of didymo and siltation. You can still find them in the green mosses and grasses, but those areas are few and far between anymore. I've noticed a lot less midges on the lower river this season. No clue as to why. Good news is there is a **** of a black caddis hatch happening now.

Anyway, lots of rambling here on my part....with no answers. Some of the fish look great, some don't. Obviously, they don't all look like they did in years past and there is an issue, or two out there that need addressing.
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Old 07-24-2012, 10:31 PM
waterwolf waterwolf is offline
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Food base is normal from what I have seen, there are plenty of scuds, sowbugs, midges, blackflies, black caddis, and still quite a few sulphur nymphs. It isn't a lack of food.

No signs of handling damage on any of the fish I reference, they all appear to be perfect other than a massive weight loss.

DO in the Clinch is great, and will always be great so long as the water stays cold as it usually does, and the weir is still in place.

My hypothesis:
1.) The food is there, is it in the same quantities as in years prior? I have no idea and it would be really difficult for most to determine whether it is or isn't. I don't know of a biomass size study ever being done on the river. So I personally don't feel food is an issue, if it were than the effects would show in all fish, not just the larger fish.

2.) I personally feel the atrocious flows TVA ran during the spring and early summer caused water temps to spike, resulting in lower DO, increased crap in the river (sediment/didymo), and less feeding opportunities for larger fish. Those factors which did happen could easily result in what is being witnessed on the lower river. As most probably know the larger fish prefer to feed during times of increased flow as it dislodges more bugs and feeding consumes much less energy.

I personally feel it all revolves around the flows the river had thrust on it for 3 months earlier this summer. Could it be a result of an over predation on the food source? Sure, and the trash fish (brook trout) would be a good place to start looking for a cause. Forever there was not the increased pressure on the food base which is now present with the introduction of another species. However, at the same time it may have no impact, and my disdain for the trash species may be clouding my judgement.
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