View Full Version : Trout Mortality

08-13-2007, 11:45 PM
Hi All,

With all the talk of high temps, low water, trout death, and Byron's canceled vacation and classes, I wondered if anyone knows of some good, real data showing the relationships of the above. I've no doubt that stressors increase the mortality of fish; I just wonder what the actual numbers are.

I've been googling around this evening, looking for such numbers. Here is what I've found:

- 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

I've heard a lot of talk about rules of thumb like "I don't fish water above 68," but I haven't seen the data to back up a claim like that.

It seems to me, that maybe C&R in these high temps in the Smokies doesn't really cause much mortality, or maybe a better way of saying that is that maybe whatever extra mortality it causes might not be significant when compared with all the other causes of mortality. I've been told by fisheries folk that what limits trout biomass in the Smokies is mostly just the low fertility. If that's true, then maybe killing a few trout simply makes the remaining fish larger, until the next spawning creates more competition again. In fact, without that 65% weather mortality, maybe we would have even more even smaller fish! Maybe fishing 75 degree water in the Smokies is not such an awful thing. Of course I don't really know, which is why I'm asking everyone for whatever studies, or even anecdotal evidence, you can come up with. I think studies done on stockers in tailwaters would not be very relevant, but might still be interesting.


08-13-2007, 11:50 PM
Good food for thought...and speaking of food, it probably wouldn't be a bad thing to keep a few fish once in a while. Like most people on this board (I suspect), I release almost all my fish in freshwater - in fact, I haven't kept a trout caught in the park. However, I've heard about what happens after a major mortality event, like a flood; the average size increases, while average fisherman catch rates stay about the same. So, some selective harvesting might be a good thing.

Of course, the majority of the fish I catch fall just a bit short of that magic 7 inches, so the point is often moot...;)

08-14-2007, 05:51 AM
I started keeping Park trout a couple of years ago because trout caught out of these waters are so good to eat--stockers and farm raised trout do not compare---you would think that Park trout losses of 65%,would be readily observed with dead fish floating up--

Rog 1
08-14-2007, 08:26 AM
Anyone who has ever fished a farm pond where no harvesting occurs knows the effect....tons of tiny fish.....any water can support only a given number of fish ..... the Park tried to fish out Tremont one year for a brookie experiment....all fish but brookies, no matter the size, were required to be brought out.....could not get all the bows but the result was the next year the average size went up 1 - 2 inches.....after a while things returned to normal and the sizes dropped proportionately.....

08-14-2007, 09:20 AM
You know, it doesn't matter what species you're talking about - wild fish taste so much better - much firmer flesh. It even extends to shellfish; Louisiana has had a promotional campaign for the last few years, encouraging people to only buy locally caught shrimp, instead of the farmed stuff from Asia. Now, the promotion is primarily aimed at helping out local shrimpers, who are getting killed by the imports, but it's true - they do taste better.

08-14-2007, 10:15 AM
I think this is a very interesting topic as well. Is it possible that we could try to put a silver lining on the drought of '07 in that it may "cull the herd" of wild trout in the mountains and result in a period of bigger fish in the coming years just as an increase in harvest might do? Just something I was wondering about as I was driving by the (very) Little River the other day.

08-14-2007, 04:00 PM
A very interesting topic. Here is a good study of Trout in Southern California. One point brought up is the variation is what optimal conditions are for trout in other parts of the country (Pacific NW v. So Cal). My guess is that trout here in the Southern Appalachians are closer to So Cal trout than Oregon)

The top end of good growth was almost 72 (22C)! and that growth dropped off at 77 (25C).

Maybe we are overly concerned about temperatures. I think the most worrisome aspect of our weather is the drought. I think that has much more to do with stress than water temp.

08-14-2007, 07:46 PM
I know this is probably going to step on someone's toes, but after fishing in the Smokies for more than 35 years, the issue of trout mortality is real and its unfortunate that it is not taken seriously. If the issue of mortality was not a factor, there wouldn't be a need to schedule stream times such as now is occurring in Yellowstone and many of the other streams. Trout are extremely sensitive to stress and their ability to survive a five minute fight in low water and stressful temperatures is greatly diminished in the circumstances now facing the Smokies.

08-14-2007, 09:55 PM
Thank you all for your opinions! I think, to come to a truthful position about something like this, you can't worry about stepping on toes. So don't worry about that in this thread. The world is full of unanswered questions and correspondingly bad policies simply because people are afraid to rock a boat (Bay of Pigs comes to mind...)

So far, we've only dredged up one more study (thanks PeteCz!). It would certainly be nice if more of us could cough up some more numbers, if you have them.

Kytroutman, it would be wonderful if we could find what data they base such a strong policy decision on. I'll look for that. If I find it, I'll report it back here. I will say that what happens in large western rivers with their sparse tree cover and large, sprawling acreage doesn't seem nearly as like our small-mountain-stream-Smokies as say, So Cal streams. It may be that small trout survive high temps a lot better than large ones, as some bass studies show. And well, the Smokies are full of 6-8" fish, as opposed to 15-18 " fish everywhere in the Yellowstone area. It could even be that that some of the factors causing the lethality in the Yellowstone area could be the same factors causing the fish to grow so large and abundant! Like say, the Firehole keeping the Madison at better growing temperatures for some of the winter, and the higher fertility loads (and thus higher pathogen loads) of western rivers.

As an example of something that people have long believed, and strongly, we could point to fishing for spawning bass. For many, many years it was common wisdom that you don't fish bass on nests, because that would impact their numbers. So streams were closed until after the spawn. Yet many studies have shown exactly zero impact on bass numbers when anglers are allowed to fish them off nests. The reality of that situation is that when you have a lake with a billion eggs, 99.9xxx percent of them die anyway. Killing a few million eggs just doesn't hurt anything. Slowly, policies have changed to reflect reality (I'm headed to NY in a few weeks and have read about locals being mad about biologists eliminating the spawning fishing bans on their local creeks and lakes. What that really means is that no amount of data can convince some people).

I feel that surely someone has the numbers that we are looking for. Policy decisions based on gut feelings are wrong more often than those that have good facts backing them up.

If we really are impacting the fish population during these high temps, then shouldn't our fisheries folks be closing our streams too? Or at least issuing some kind of official opinion? Also, does anyone know if the closures in Yellowstone are official, or if they are some kind of voluntary mouth-to-mouth thing controlled by the fly shops? I'm not passing judgment on it; I'm just curious.

Byron, if you are reading this thread, it would be interesting to hear your take on it. One can tell that you are very concerned about the fish, and it would help to know what things you've seen, heard, and read to come to the conclusions you have. Your opinion carries a heavy weight!

08-14-2007, 10:16 PM
I think it has to be taken on a stream-by-stream basis. While Little River has been extremely low most of the summer, and Cosby almost dried up totally, to give two examples, the N.C. side had plenty of water and good temperatures, at least where we fished. If the water is low and warm, don't fish that area; chances are, you won't get a fish to rise anyway. If the temps are still in the "go" range (low 60s), it's a different story. Most of the time, I get a fish to hand in a matter of a few seconds - I keep my casts as short as possible. Just use a little common sense.

On the good side, I did see on the water vapor satellite loop that there actually is some moisture working its way into the atmosphere over the Smokies; the last few days, the air has been bone dry. It's pretty pathetic to be cheering for humidity, but you take whatever small victories you can. In the meantime, we might have a pretty decent storm (Dean) to deal with next week.

08-14-2007, 10:22 PM
I think it IS taken very seriously by all of us who are part of the LRO Forums. I think what the original post was getting at, was trying to determine what the exact conditions are so that we can better decided when to stay away from fishing.

I think the two variables that we've discussed are temperature and water level. Obviously there are others, but the others (hopefully) don't change as rapidly. What seems to be a very valid set of questions are: at what point do the GSM Trout start to get stressed? and for what reasons? With better information, more people can make better decisions. Right now, the temps are high and the water is low, so we all know its not the time to fish. But what if the water level was at a good level and it was 70 degrees. Would it be ok to fish? If the temps are in the low 60s, how low does the water need to be to cause stress. It would be nice to figure out what those boundaries are, and then stay away from the stream at the proper times.

If we knew that temps at 68 and above degrees caused stress in the trout, I know that most all of us would not fish. But it doesn't look like there is any data to back that up. In fact, water temperatures in the upper 60s seem to actually support good growth in some species of trout (according to most research). So if the water levels come up and the temp stays in the upper 60s, should we fish?

The diversity of elevation and stream characteristics should prevent us from making blanket statements, as well. There are places in the park where the temperature has remained at almost optimal levels. If we got some more rain, it might be fine to fish again. While at the same time, its going to take a much more dramatic change in weather to make the lower parts of the Little River fishable.

Also, based on evidence from fish harvesting on some streams in the park (as part of the Brookie reintroduction), fishing is a very poor contributer to fish mortality. I can't remember the exact percentages, but when fishermen were instructed to harvest all of the fish they could over a two week period, they made a minuscule difference in the number of fish still in the stream. So even if people were fishing in less than optimal conditions (which I don't condone), its questionable how much stress they could really cause. Obviously tramping around in a stream cause stress in fish, even in optimal conditions, so how do we get all the little brat kids in the park to stay out of the water and stop throwing stones into the water. What about tubers? Surely they would cause stress, as well. At Metcalf Bottoms is looks like some highly intelligent individuals decided to create a channel to move what little water there is more swiftly through a section of the river. The "redevelopment" of the stream bed cannot be good for a large number of fish in that section of the stream. The list of stress factor is rather lengthy.

But more than anything else, the environment and the weather seem to shape fish mortality. We have a wonderful resource that I want my great-grandchildren to cherish someday. We all need to be good stewards of our fisheries and the park in general, but all that we do, should have some scientific basis.

I guess thats more than $.02 worth. Sorry for such a long post...

08-14-2007, 10:57 PM
Yes, PeteCz, exactly. I certainly take this seriously. I just want a decision to fish or not based on the best data we have. Without that data, it just becomes a battle of anecdotal viewpoints. We humans often make bad decisions when our emotions become involved in the process. And trout dying makes a lot of people emotional. Some people so much that they join PETA.

Ijsouth, your point seems very reasonable to me. Some streams are obviously in more trouble than others.

08-14-2007, 11:27 PM
Well, I'll put things to the test this weekend; I'm driving up to look at some property (otherwise I would wait until October), and I'll try to fish a bit...the first thing I'll do is check the temperature. I can tell you right now that a whole lot of streams are off the list from the get-go - everything will be up high, and under a canopy. Thank goodness the temps are easing off a bit - even here; I think we actually stayed under 100, and I thought I heard some thunder at work. Fall is coming, y'all...be patient.

08-15-2007, 01:49 AM
As Byron stated in an earlier report in his talking with Walter Babb, Walter had stated that these trout had survived through millions of years of abuse in the elements. I whole heartedly believe that statement to be true. Now leading to your question regarding morality of the trout in droubt conditions we must add a "few" factors!

1) Acid rain put in place by large companies poluting the air as well as your car and mine putzing around town!

2) As previously stated by another gentlman on this board, I believe the thread read-Trash! Litter bugs/aka general idiots whom have no common sense to see the impact on there discarded cigarette butts, beer cans, and vehicle tires on the eco system as a whole!

3) Taking into account the message board! There are over a thousand members to this board alone. Lets just take a third of them and say that they live within close proximity to the park and fish it on there weekend's off just one time on there two day weekend.....That's around 300 board members seeing some stretch of the GSMNP at some point and time during the week! Now add in the usual summer time crowd that lingers in Townsend, let alone Gatlinburg, and you have your self a whole lot of people in the water attempting to catch trout!

4) Let's also add in that there is also a profilific tuber hatch going off every morning starting around 9am and stretching until dusk or better! Now take into account that these tubers are sliding down an unusually smaller stream than the norm!

Now number 5 is worth listing but really aggrivates me! The NP Service employs somewhere around 4 uniformed officers to patrol Blount, Sevier, and Monroe counties all the live long way to NC. Here's the good part! You and I pay for our beloved fishing license and accompaning trout stamp yearly! A good number to really look at would be how many people illegally fish the park without a license! Lack of officials in the park allow these (for lack of a better term) terds to most of the time get away with it. So with that thought in mind we have individuals in the park whom will come to our park and not contribute one dime to the NP Service or TWRA. Monies that could be dispursed for additional officers and stocking of the very fish they catch! A person that won't pay for a license is more than likely the person who doesn't give a hoot about littering up the very waters we wet lines in!

Now that I have that off my chest....I don't quite know what numbers your looking for but I can say this! The fish are under stress and yes they probably will survive seeing as they have endured many years of nature's worst abuse, but when the added factor of man contributes to the stress is certainly doesn't help matters at all. The fish didn't see that kind of stress 30 yrs ago let alone a thousand!!! I think I'd be taking this from another weary thread but I honestly don't think that visitors to the park are our main source of littering! It's the good ol boys that just really only care about them selves! I would imagine that most of the streams you are refering to that are out west don't see the type of idiotic behavior our streams see and most of them are heavily gaurded by it's guides on the water and well manned enforcement efforts!

On another note! I would love to see new law regarding licenses. I think anyone whom is on the water should have to cleary display there license at all times so that it may be seen by everyone and should be able to identify from roadside! Another thing that would be fantastic to see from a law enforcement standpoint would be a vehicle sticker. The sticker would not be renewable and would require changing with change of your license! This way when law enforcement see's a vehicle parked roadside at waters edge and an angler near, all he would have to do is look for the sticker. If there isn't a sticker present on the vehicle he/she would/could closer inspect the anglers closest to the car. This would allow for the "calling out" of a fellow angler! There's no way now, for another angler to know who he/she is sharing the water with. Sad to know you could be getting skunked! You had paid your dues and some terd beside you who didn't pay for his, has the stringer of a lifetime!

Off my soap box but remember, always pick up others trash, take only what you will eat, and leave it as you left it so that your kids and mine can see it as we once saw it! So I don't personally think that it's a matter of turning person's into PETA affiliates, it's just a matter of seeing the actions of other's worsening as days progress! There is an old saying that most people won't change until they hit rock bottom! I hope my child, grand children etc, never have to see that day! This world is long overdue for a change to it's enviornment and how we care for mother earth!

Something else to add people whom don't purchase a license aren't contributing to any form of monies that would be directed towards your very question! Research!

08-15-2007, 07:53 AM
Something else to add people whom don't purchase a license aren't contributing to any form of monies that would be directed towards your very question! Research!

There is a word for people who fish without a license. Poacher.


08-15-2007, 09:00 AM
Poaching is the matter at hand however it is no longer refered to in TCA (Tennessee Code Annotated) as poaching! Simply fish/hunt with out a license! Just some legal mumbo jumbo term and language I'm used to speaking in! Poacher, would refer to one person, whom is performing some form of illegal act while taking wildlife ie; hunting from roadway, illegal trapping, wildlife out of season, the taking of brookies from a closed stream, etc. Yes, yes they are all poachers and I'd love to see them all get a taste of there own medicine! The jails aren't big enough and the fines aren't steep enough!

08-15-2007, 01:09 PM
Poachers,tubers,trash dumpers,acid rain,nutrientless waters,weather,are all factors to be considered when discussing the SMNP breakdown.
My friend Eric's daughter ,Shannon, is a geographical Phd.She works at NASA where she is a enviromental evaluator of satellite photos of the USA.She dropped by the other day.We talked about pollution and eviromental stuff relative to the Eastern US and SMNP and the destruction of the enviroment that fuels "the delicate ecosystem" that is the Smokies.She believes in 15years the Smoky Mtn ecosysten will begin the detiorate,because of the high levels of carbon monoxide,and other auto emission poisonous bi-products that are currently at almost toxic levels .She said,the Smokies is the most resiliant N.P. in the USA,because it is the most enviromently stressed NP in the USA.The popular trend of luring tourists by the millions into the area will eventually increase emissions to toxic levels that will cause adverse effects to all aspects of the ecosystem.The waters and aquatic life will suffer with decreased levels of oxygen,causing stunted fish,tainted water etc. so we should add emissions,which is invisible and passive.That's what is nice about tubers--you can see them--

08-15-2007, 01:48 PM
This is a great topic, and I would like to see some studies on the topic. I am not a "tree hugger", but I do care about the environment. I certainly care about the SMNP, and the magnificent opportunity it provides me to fish and enjoy nature. I love catching Brook trout, not because they are bigger and fight better, but because I have such respect for the fact that they have survived for so long despite the destruction of most of their environment. If you have not seen what those mountains looked like after the logging, pick up a book in the visitors center about the history of the mountains. The only way the Brook trout survived was by climbing higher than the loggers could reach. Besides that, they are just beautiful.

I don't blame anyone for wanting to fish these waters, even now. But, I do think we can fish barbless, check the temperature and fish in cooler water, and release the fish as soon as possible as Bryon has suggested. Again, I am not a scientist, but I bet most of us are staying inside when we can, unless we are fishing of course, during these hot days. If it affects us, it surely affects the fish.

08-16-2007, 11:45 PM
I've looked, but haven't really found any new studies. I did find a book, Trout, by Stolz and Schnell, that says Rainbows are pretty comfortable up to 70, and can survive up to 83. The same book says Browns grow best between 55 and 60, but can survive to 80. And when another study shows that trout grow best between 65 and 75 F, and another says he won't fish anything above 65 because it kills trout, well, somebody's wrong.

So I'm left to try to form the best opinion I can. I think temperature is a strong factor to consider, and so is extremely low water. And more important than both of these is which stream-or-region-specific factors limit the trout biomass in a stream to begin with. As I pointed out earlier, it seems that in the Smokies, it is all about water nutrients, and whatever fish anglers kill has little or no long-term impact.

The most logical personal policy that I can attempt to create is this: I don't think that temps below 75 hurt the fish much. I don't think that low water hurts the fish much, but extremely low water does. Combined, maybe they do hurt the fish a good bit. But these factors may be irrelevant since the only fish I'm gonna catch during such conditions are small fish, which will easily be replaced next spawn when trout biomass will quickly shoot up to match the available food supply, which again in the Smokies is the limiting factor. And on top of all this, the Browns and Rainbows are invasives anyway, so it doesn't really matter much if I'm wrong about those two.

So the question boils down to this: Does it make you feel bad to fish for stressed trout, even though, in this circumstance, they should rebound? I guess my own answer is no, because the very act of angling for them even under the best of circumstances stresses them out, and kills a few. When they are really stressed, it surely kills more. But in the case of the Smokies, it shouldn't matter very much. Maybe it might make the fishing this Fall somewhat tougher, so maybe it is selfish of me to have this view. But those remaining fish should grow better, and should have more food to eat, and because they are more fit, should spawn better.

So all that is a long-winded way of defining my personal beliefs about fishing in the Southern Appalachians: If wild Rainbows and Browns, go fishing, and don't worry about it. Release them fast and use barbless hooks (like I always do anyway). If wild Brookies, don't fish them when the water is extremely low and extremely hot (above 70) unless the stream has a ton of tiny fish, in which case it doesn't matter. If stocked (any species), then fish regardless of anything.

I feel that some may think my views mean, but so would the PETA-types for us forum-ites fishing at all. I've not attempted to be mean, only to be logical. That's the best I can do.

This has been a fun discussion, although it would have been nice to have a heavyweight, like a trout biologist, share some opinions. I am glad for the opportunity to interact with all yall. You've helped me come to a belief that I can have some comfort with, at least until someone produces some better numbers.

08-17-2007, 08:57 AM
What an interesting discussion. While it would be great if there was a definitive
answer to the question posed, why not just take the conservative approach and give the trout the benefit of doubt until reliable information is available.
Is it really that big of a deal?
Just my .02

08-17-2007, 03:27 PM
I think, ultimately, it is not that big a deal. That's why I think I'll not worry about it much.

I've got an idea. We can do our own, extremely unscientific study. I'm sure that there are plenty of people fishing the park right now, just like there will be this weekend. And I'm sure that anglers are hitting the Smokies this summer just like they do every year. The idea is this: Byron says that this is the worst summer he has ever seen in his entire 15 years here (that tells me that maybe he wasn't around when things got really bad in 1987, but that is unimportant for this discussion). If, come Fall and Spring, Byron reports the fishing as "good" or "great" in most areas, we'll know that the high temps and low waters never really mattered. If the fishing is poor, we'll at least know that some combination of angling, temps, and low water probably caused it.

Jack M.
08-17-2007, 04:11 PM
I've been in these discussions before and did some research on the topic. I'm not a biologist and memory serves me only so well, but one thing to keep in mind when considering how water temps effect trout is the effect of fluctuation of temps over time. Most streams will fluctuate 10-12 degrees or more in a 24 hour period. If you find water temps peaking at 4:00-6:00 PM at 72, chances are from 800 PM through 10 AM, they have been under 68, a very comfortable temperature for trout. Several hours in the 70s, even if the peak is mid-70s probably causes very little stress, except if there is a low dissolved oxygen issue as well (oxygen dissolves easier in cool water). Then again, if the water is above 72 degrees for 16 hours and only drops slightly below 70 for a few, even if you fish at the coolest hour of the day, you are going to find stressed fish.

Similarly, have the trout been under temperature stresses for several days or weeks, or is this the first day water temps peaked above 70? If it is the first day they got above 70, fishing for them even with a water temp at 74 will probably not do a lot of harm. Fish that are stressed will not magically become healthy when the water breaks back below 70, though recovery will begin. Likewise, fish that are healthy will not be weak and vulnerable as soon as water temps break 72, but they will begin feeling some temperqature stress. In summary, it helps to consider and factor into your decision the amount of time that temperatures stay above the optimal.

Byron Begley
08-18-2007, 02:29 PM
I will read these posts tonight and would be glad to give my opinion on all of them. I am not a scientist. Just a fisherman. I've been fishing here over 30 years and I've not seen the water this low as far as I can remember. It has been lower I've heard during at least three droughts since the 1930's. I did spend a lot of time here in the late 80's and I remember that drought.

I do know that when we lose an age class of fish in a flood the perceived fishing the next year is better. Less trout, more food.

Also, I understand that the temperature affects the amount of disolved oxygen. The warm water loses it's ability to hold oxygen and the parts per million drop. I think that is an important factor in trout mortality. I bet some streams have more disolved oxygen at the same temperature as others with less ppm. For instance, the Little River may hold more disolved oxygen at 70 degrees than the upper Gibbon in Yellowstone because of the water churning in the riffles. Just a guess.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive about this issue. But I would rather error on the conservative side. I moved here because I love the mountains and the trout fishing. If I am wrong, I'll change my view on the fishing report. Believe me, I hope I am wrong.

I don't believe all the trout in the Smokies are going to die. I don't expect to see a fish kill. I think my problem is I hate to see them suffer. I kill and eat fish though I have only done it a couple of times in the Smokies when I'm backpacking. I just feel bad about putting the trout under more stress than they are already under. I know people are fishing in the Park right now and I think that is fine. I would probably go now and catch a couple up high early in the morning and not feel bad about it at all.

I have had 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. These are guys who have fished here all their life and would be capable of catching fifty or more in a day right now. Those guys are staying out of the streams until the conditions improve. They know the damage they can do.

The Fishing Report is published to give reliable information to people who might drive here from a long distance and expect good fishing only to find out it isn't. On the other hand when the fishing is excellent I want them to know so they get over here and enjoy it when it is at it's best. If the fishing is bad or good I want them to know then they can make their decision. I've been on too many fishing trips expecting the best and getting the worst. Now, thanks to the internet you can get good information fast. You can also get bad information fast.

As far as Yellowstone is concerned you can go to the official National Park website and they have posted which streams and specifically where on those streams the 2:00 pm closure is mandated.

This is a good thread. Keep it up.


08-18-2007, 04:35 PM
Hello all,

I guess I will join this interesting discussion. I fished twice in the Smokies last weekend, at Road Prong and Walkers Prong. The temps were 62 and 63 on Saturday and Sunday on those streams. The water levels were pretty low though, and the fishing was moderate. I can't imagine how bad it is on Little River right now at lower elevations and other lower waters. I think it's a good thing Byron that you are suggesting that people check the temps and only fish if conditions are appropriate. I guess one could argue that higher fish mortality from catching trout under stressful conditions might create conditions that allow for larger fish the follwing year, but that not seem to be very conscientious way to look at the ecosystem. The best thing that can come out of a severe drought situation like we're encountering in TN is that people become more aware of the environment and understand better how to adjust to its changes. Hopefully, the drought doesn't roll into next year, and things will get back to normal in the Smokies and in the southern U.S.

I will be quiet now, LOL.


Byron Begley
08-18-2007, 05:11 PM
There is a book that is out of print called "Trout Biology". I had a copy and loaned it to someone years ago. I would love to have it back. Of course, I can't remember who I loaned it to. If anyone posting on this thread could find a used one you would enjoy it. Obviously we are all interested in this discussion. I don't write a lot of long posts on the board but this one is very interesting to me, especially since part of my job is to write the morning report. If any of you can find some of these books let me know. I want one. I think it would answer many of our questions. And, like Snaildarter said, this is a fun discussion. I can't wait to see where it goes.


Byron Begley
08-18-2007, 05:36 PM
I'm glad this thread started. I found Trout Biology by Bill Willers used on Amazon and bought one. There are three left.


08-18-2007, 05:44 PM
Bryon, there is a companion book related to Trout Stream Management that also list many of the environmental factors that also affect the trout's physiology, including structure cover, water levels, etc. After spending so much time working on stream restoration and creation, including hauling trout on horseback to remote streams, a little patience now will preserve trout for more ameniable conditions in the future.

08-18-2007, 05:51 PM
Here is a very unscientific observation...In my little fish pond at home, on cooler days when I throw in the fish food the fish come from all directions, under rocks, shallow end, deep end, etc. On hot days they are almost all hanging out by the waterfall...to get the higher oxygen levels caused by the cascade?

Also the larger fish are more likely to be by the waterfall than the tiny ones. Do the larger ones stress quicker and need the higher oxygen levels? Or do they just chase the little ones away?

I've often wondered why they are by the waterfalls when I expected them to be in the deep end where I assumed the water was cooler.

Byron Begley
08-18-2007, 06:14 PM
Kytroutman, Is the book called "Better Trout Habitat". If it is I've got that one.

Barbara, I hope you are feeling better after your fall. I hit my leg on a table here at the store yesterday and I'm still limping. I've got to learn to walk without wearing my reading glasses. I don't know but I'd say the big fish need more oxygen.


08-18-2007, 06:46 PM
Byron, yes sir.

08-19-2007, 01:16 PM
Bryon, you seem to be extremely honest and to have good moral character. Are you sure you are a fisherman? :smile:

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.

Byron Begley
08-19-2007, 03:19 PM

Not all fishermen lie!:smile: 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.


David Knapp
08-19-2007, 04:33 PM
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.

08-19-2007, 05:40 PM
Some studies to consider :


http://www.ccrb-comb.org/Volume%20II%20Appendices/appxg.pdf (http://www.ccrb-comb.org/Volume%20II%20Appendices/appxg.pdf)

http://afs.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1577%2F1548-8675(1999)019%3C0152%3AIOTOMA%3E2.0.CO%3B2&ct=1 trout+mortality&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8&gl=us

http://www.blackfootchallenge.org/am/uploads/blackfoot_drought_triggers_and_trout_and_lifting_r estricitons.pdf





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)

08-19-2007, 05:45 PM

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.......

08-19-2007, 06:03 PM
Another good site I missed in my research. http://www.trout.forprod.vt.edu/fishpubs/burrell2000_01.pdf

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

08-19-2007, 06:22 PM
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.

08-19-2007, 10:12 PM
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!,

Gerry Romer
08-20-2007, 01:15 AM
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

Gerry Romer
08-20-2007, 01:49 AM
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

08-20-2007, 02:14 AM
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 http://www.killroys.com/articles/fishingfortrout2.htm

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!

08-20-2007, 09:14 AM
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 sense”. 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.

08-20-2007, 11:30 AM
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 sourcesAll 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...

08-20-2007, 11:44 AM
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.

08-20-2007, 12:01 PM

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.

Byron Begley
08-20-2007, 12:32 PM
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.


08-20-2007, 02:44 PM
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 (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hwff.org%2FConservation%2FMor tality%2520report%25202005.pdf&ei=scvJRviAL426gQS05KE4&usg=AFQjCNF0dcnSHDlyf5rxS8_QI1fp9t2l_g&sig2=AbK-ZUnWCKdXvR3MQQzZxg)

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, :smile: I feel your comment about milk is a very interesting one. I think your elders may question your questioning of milk. :biggrin:

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.

08-20-2007, 03:23 PM
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.

08-20-2007, 03:50 PM

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 don’t want to chance increasing that – 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 don’t blast me because I don’t have a study to prove that I can have an opinion.

David Knapp
08-20-2007, 03:53 PM
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.

Paula Begley
08-20-2007, 03:58 PM
*Dons Admin Hat*

This post is not directed at anyone in particular, but to everyone in general as a gentle reminder.

I would like to say, this thread has gone on relatively peacefully; I would like for that to continue.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion...and a place to voice it, in a reasonable and respectful manner. You may choose to disagree, but please do so in an agreeable way.

Thank you.


*Doffs Admin Hat*

08-20-2007, 04:21 PM
Can't... Keep.... Away.... From.... LRO Forum.... Must.... Resist....

Flyman, very well said. That's the kind of data that can really alter my opinion. I think I believe now that it is very bad. OK, so there. The combination of drought and heat is probably killing a lot of fish. Maybe I should trust common sense more, but in the past, common sense has come up with things like believing the earth is flat.

OK, that still leaves the question of how much does angling hurt our local, productivity-limited trout populations? I still remain unmoved on that one, but I will be looking into extensively it before my next post, assuming I can stay away from this forum long enough to do it.

If everything is as bad as it seems, why is no one calling and demanding stream closures? The only real effort I've seen by anyone is Byron going on TV. In fact, perhaps anyone spending time to reply to my postings should make some time also to call up TWRA or the Park Service or NCWRC and tell them how bad it is, and what are they going to do about it? Heck, I feel like doing it, and I don't even yet agree with it! At least an official opinion or something out of TWRA. The silence seems deafening.

Oh and gosh, let me back off that geriatric statement right now before that topic bursts into flames too. That was meant as a respectful jest. Humor doesn't come off well in forums. I am sure all those young gentlemen are much better fishermen than me, and doubtless have much to teach me.

Donwinn, well said.

Plateau Angler, well said. I can assure you that all the big fish in the Smokies are safe from me even if I were to fish them. :smile:

Paula, you are of course correct.

Byron Begley
08-20-2007, 06:04 PM
I called up the Park Service this morning and wrote about my conversation with Steve Moore (Fisheries Biologist Great Smoky Mountains National Park) in today's fishing report. Steve knows this drought is having an impact on the trout. As I reported they are finding that the populations in the mid-elevation and high-elevation streams has declined 30% to 40% this year due to the drought and maybe other factors. He also knows and has the facts to back up his opinions that fishermen have very little impact on the fish population. He is a scientist who makes his decisions based on data. Since we are good friends and we have spent a lot of time together he has convinced me he knows what he is doing. He told me this morning without any hesitation that he has not considered closing the streams to fishing. Why? Because he knows anglers don't have much of an impact and recent creel studies show that they are not catching many trout anyway. I'm OK with that. And, Snaildarter, you two guys would get along great.

But, that doesn't change my position at all. I am still going to write in the fishing report that I'm not going fishing under these conditions and that our readers should handle the trout with care and fish the cool water should they decide to go. I have an emotional attachment to these streams and the trout, I admit it.

This has been the best thread I have read and been involved in. All of you make excellent points and your writing skills are going to force me to improve mine. In fact, I going to look up the word "geriatric" right now.


Gerry Romer
08-22-2007, 08:38 AM
Flyman, very well said. That's the kind of data that can really alter my opinion. I think I believe now that it is very bad. OK, so there. The combination of drought and heat is probably killing a lot of fish. Maybe I should trust common sense more, but in the past, common sense has come up with things like believing the earth is flat.

OK, that still leaves the question of how much does angling hurt our local, productivity-limited trout populations? I still remain unmoved on that one

Well, snaildarter, maybe we should take another look at how this thread began. In the opening post, you said: "It seems to me, that maybe C&R in these high temps in the Smokies doesn't really cause much mortality, or maybe a better way of saying that is that maybe whatever extra mortality it causes might not be significant when compared with all the other causes of mortality. I've been told by fisheries folk that what limits trout biomass in the Smokies is mostly just the low fertility. If that's true, then maybe killing a few trout simply makes the remaining fish larger, until the next spawning creates more competition again. In fact, without that 65% weather mortality, maybe we would have even more even smaller fish! Maybe fishing 75 degree water in the Smokies is not such an awful thing. Of course I don't really know, which is why I'm asking everyone for whatever studies, or even anecdotal evidence, you can come up with."

You later said: "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..." Well, for weeks now, Byron and others have been posting both scientific (warm water and dissolved oxygen content) and anecdotal evidence (putting an eyeball on the trickle every day) which strongly suggests that now is not a good time to fish the Smokies. And then brookiefly comes along with some fabulous links to exactly the scientfic information you'd been asking for. But somehow, neither the scientific nor the anecdotal evidence is sufficient for you and I just have to ask why.

Am I attacking your motivation here? Possibly. You asked for specifics, you were given specifics and yet you come back time and again to argue that you haven't been proven wrong. I just have to wonder why.

And I can honestly say that this is the first time I have ever been compared to either Karl Rove or Michael Moore. "...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."

No, it wasn't, but I can see where you'd want to turn it into that to try and invalidate my points. I don't know you well enough to either attack or insult you personally. Besides, Paula would never let me do that... I was, however, attacking an ill-informed opinion that even you admit you can't justify. (Opening post, again: "Of course I don't really know, which is why I'm asking everyone for whatever studies, or even anecdotal evidence, you can come up with.") Further: "I think, to come to a truthful position about something like this, you can't worry about stepping on toes. So don't worry about that in this thread." Ouch.

Here's an example of the kind of arrogance I'm referring to: "But I think it is important to remember that this is nature, doing what nature does. Those fish and their ancient relatives have survived this kind of thing since long before we were here. The weak ones will die, and the strong ones will live, and pass their good genes on to next year. That is how it has worked for a very long time."

We simply don't (and can't) know this to be true. I'm sure those fish and their ancient relatives had plenty of extreme weather/temperature swings, droughts and so on, but they didn't have to also contend with the destruction of their ecosystem by a bunch of greedy people introducing acid rain and pillaging their habitat. Mankind has, in relatively recent geologic time, compounded an already exacerbated problem with whole new elements. After pillaging the native trout habitat driven by their need for wood, our arrogant ancestors figured it'd be okay to stock the lower streams with a more sporting fish... invasive?? No, I think we did that. And now we are looking at a very extensive and very expensive effort to return the native species to just a small bit of their former range. So how can you say that they'll survive just like they always have? We are clearly in uncharted territory here and, like Byron, I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Six days ago, lauxier offered the following: "Poachers,tubers,trash dumpers,acid rain,nutrientless waters,weather,are all factors to be considered when discussing the SMNP breakdown.

My friend Eric's daughter ,Shannon, is a geographical Phd.She works at NASA where she is a enviromental evaluator of satellite photos of the USA.She dropped by the other day.We talked about pollution and eviromental stuff relative to the Eastern US and SMNP and the destruction of the enviroment that fuels "the delicate ecosystem" that is the Smokies.She believes in 15years the Smoky Mtn ecosysten will begin the detiorate,because of the high levels of carbon monoxide,and other auto emission poisonous bi-products that are currently at almost toxic levels .She said,the Smokies is the most resiliant N.P. in the USA,because it is the most enviromently stressed NP in the USA.The popular trend of luring tourists by the millions into the area will eventually increase emissions to toxic levels that will cause adverse effects to all aspects of the ecosystem.The waters and aquatic life will suffer with decreased levels of oxygen,causing stunted fish,tainted water etc. so we should add emissions,which is invisible and passive.That's what is nice about tubers--you can see them-- "

There's another informed opinion. But even that didn't seem to have any impact on your own personal set of fishing ethics. "OK, that still leaves the question of how much does angling hurt our local, productivity-limited trout populations? I still remain unmoved on that one ..." (snaildarter, one day ago).

Decades ago, when I was playing Pee Wee football, we called it "piling on". I just don't think we need to be piling on right now - and that "opinion" comes from my own personal observation of the Smokies streams, the anecdotal evidence provided by Byron, his geriatric buddies and freinds, and by the scientific literature available. Oh, and by the way, that study of the Gallatin had way more than just warts. It has more holes than a block of cheap swiss cheese.

I, too, have learned a lot from this thread. Most of it very humbling. For example, earlier this summer I really thought that my angling prowess was finally starting to come together. Now I find out that it more than likely was just the increased metabolism of the fish, brought about by the increased water temperatures and diminishing dissolved oxygen. At that point in time they would've (and did) hit just abiout anything I threw at them. I did learn more about stealth, though. When the water's this skinny, you really do need to belly-crawl up to a spot.

More food for thought:

A few weeks back, a black bear was stunned and caught just a couple blocks from my house. Now I live just a few blocks from the Alcoa North plant and a few blocks from Alcoa High School. Was this particular bear an anomaly? Did he just happen to wander some 20 miles from the park boundary, or was he just out looking for his cousin who had gone for a few pops in the Old City in Knoxville a few weeks before that??

Gerry Romer

08-22-2007, 01:54 PM
Good afternoon everyone. Gerry, you bring up good points. You argue with passion, and what's comical about this frictional situation is that I agree with you on so much of what you've said. I know that you care a great deal for the fish, and the environment, and I want to emphasize that I do too.

This thread has become huge, not only because the large number of words in it, but because of all the links to studies in it. After this post, I am going to re-read everything I have written, while constantly keeping in mind your criticisms. And I am going to thoroughly review all the studies. I've said that I'm interested in the truth, and I mean it. But I am busy right now, and since I'll be out of town until the 3rd, and since I intend to put a huge amount of thought into my next post, it really will be a while before I post again, despite the fact that I already said that! You guys, please don't beat me up too badly until I return. And then have at it. :smile:

Gerry, I will address some of what you wrote.

1) Yes, I asked mainly for studies, but also for anecdotal evidence. The reason I ask for anecdotal evidence is because sometimes the studies haven't been done, and that is all you have to go on. I do appreciate it.

2) You say, "then brookiefly comes along with some fabulous links to exactly the scientfic information you'd been asking for. But somehow, neither the scientific nor the anecdotal evidence is sufficient for you and I just have to ask why." Indeed, he came up with some good stuff, and I've not yet read all of it. But some of the studies linked to in posts before his were in opposition, and fairly direct at that. I don't think that this is clearcut at all. Again, I plan to look all this over, slowly and with deliberation. If I say I remain unconvinced, it is because there is more than a little conflicting information here. Take, for example, this post from Bryon's fishing report the other day:

"I talked to Steve Moore this morning for a while. He heads the Fisheries Department at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have been good friends for fifteen years.

He told me that preliminary data from recent sampling in the mid to upper-elevations streams indicate a drop in trout population this year of 30% to 40% so far. [does anyone know how far off the average this is, for this point in the year? please post it if you do] I wasn't suprised at that. Steve has always told me that trout populations rise and drop due to droughts and floods and that anglers have a minimal effect on the trout population as a whole. He has all the facts to back that up. That is why you don't see catch and release as a policy in the park. The fishermen just don't make much of a difference.

I didn't ask him today but I think that around 50% to 60% of the trout population dies every year anyway. Rainbows don't live long here, it is a tough life for them. And we are near the southern end of wild trout populations so warm weather and droughts take their toll and floods often wipe out the spawn or young trout of a complete age class. That's just the way it is. I'm not sure about the percentage numbers but Steve is going to read this report in a little while and he said he would call me if I make any big mistakes.

I asked him if he has thought about closing streams on a temporary basis. I got a very fast "NO". I expected that. After all, fishermen don't do much to change the population, it's Mother Nature. He did say that they have done some creel surveys lately and there are almost no trout being caught anyway."

For the record, Byron then goes on to say that he doesn't think we should be fishing right now, and if we do, find a spot were the fish are stressed the least.

Gerry, although you questioned my motives (which I take to mean that you believe that I have ulterior motives), I assure you that I am honestly trying to figure out what is right here. It's that simple. What ulterior motives do you think I might have? That I hate fish and want to see them suffer? Or that maybe I'm a rival fly shop owner, trying to drum up business for myself? Maybe I hate the world and all God's creatures in it? I can assure you that none of these is the case, and I have shared my background with Bryon and with another guy here on the board. I don't like putting my personal information here on the web for all the world to see, so I'll continue to go by "snaildarter" for now.

3) About the insulting part. You questioned my sanity more than once. And in your last post you said that I was simply acting insulted to deflect attention from my bad ideas. Well, imagine this. You are involved in a group discussion there in your shop. Despite disagreeing, and despite a congenial tone so far, you then tell the person you are disagreeing with that he is "appalling and incredibly arrogant?" Don't you think that would cross the line from having a healthy disagreement to becoming insulting? Be honest! And then, when that person told you that you had insulted him, would you then tell him that he is only saying that to deflect criticism from his poor argument? Come on! Imagine someone did that to you.

I will admit that the Christian thing to have done, when insulted like that, would been for me to have turned the other cheek. I think I should have done that. All that responding to the insults has got me is more typing. I'd like to think I would turn the cheek every time, but gosh it's hard.

4) But I'll say that common sense, defined as the sense, or perception, of the common, or the masses, is sometimes wrong, and sometimes utterly wrong. It takes a Galileo, willing to endure the harshness of everyone around him, to change common sense when it is wrong. I'm no Galileo. I'm nowhere close. I'm not even in the same ball park. I'm not that smart, nor am I willing to endure a whole lot of public anger. Let me say that really, truly, and for sure, that I am really, really trying hard to find what I think is the best answer. The biologist above apparently has a view closer to mine. Would you say that he lacks common sense? Would you question his motives? If you called him arrogant, and he disliked it, would you then tell him he was simply distracting from your impeccable argument? I get the impression that maybe other biologists share his view as well, but like I said a few posts back, I will try hard to get one more biologist opinion on the matter before I post again.

5) I'm inclined to side with what I believe (I might be wrong! haha) to be the consensus opinion of the biologists. I might be wrong, I might be wrong. I don't think an arrogant person would admit that. Gerry, I don't think that you believe that it is even slightly possible that you could be wrong about this. I've not seen you even consider giving an inch on anything. You've not pointed out one positive thing I've written, while I've pointed out many positive things you have written. Again, the "arrogant" comment really confounds me.

6) Your "piling it on" analogy is a good one. I think all the things you mentioned, like acid rain and such, have a big effect. In fact, much bigger than angling. The world is always changing, but humans are making it change much, much faster. If we lose trout in the Smokies, I don't think it will be because of angling.

Gerry, I'll ask you, as a personal favor, to please be nice. Leave out the "appalling," arrogant," and motive questioning. I'll try hard to do the same. I apologize that I mentioned the Rove/Moore thing, although that is how I felt. I'll cave in to the popular opinion for now, and neither fish, nor recommend that anyone else fish, for now. I hope that that improves the spirit on this thread. When I return from vacation, I'll try to start from scratch, and again post what I believe, but will contain it to this thread, and hopefully will manage to do it in a less controversial way, although that was my intention all along.

And lastly, your point about the bear is right on. I think that they are in worse shape than the fish.

I wish you all peace and rain. See you in a few weeks.

Paula Begley
08-22-2007, 03:37 PM
I do not want a flame war here and this thread is skating perilously close!

Do not make me lock this thread. I am not kidding. I want everyone, and I mean everyone, to maintain a civil tone. I asked nicely above, now I am telling you.


Gerry Romer
08-22-2007, 04:58 PM
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.

snaildarter --

I had to go back and reply to my own post in order to get the exact statement. For the record, at no time did I accuse you of being appalling or incredibly arrogant. I was directing my attack - and, yes, that's what it was - on what seemed, to me, to be a rather casual development of a stream ethic. I also said that I find it very human. We humans have a tendency to follow the line of least resistance and that's not always a good thing

Do I understand your motivation for raising this issue and then not accepting what's been offered in response? Clearly I don't. Does that mean I'm somehow impugning your character? I don't see how.

I guess my frustration in all this is that, as you said, fishing actually has very little impact on the mortality rates in the Smokies. So why raise the question at all? It's like asking how bad is bad? That's why I see it as piling on. We know it's bad and getting worse every day there's no rain and every day the air temperatures hover near 100 F. Would fishing in the Smokies right now make a bad situation even worse? Common sense says, probably so. But you do have every right to fish to your heart's content. The Blue Herons are still up there trying to fish and I'm sure the beavers and otters are having a field day with all the easy pickin's. If I were facing a situation where I had to feed my family from those streams or starve, you better believe I'd be fishing every day and long after dark-thirty - regardless of the park reg that says no fishing after sundown.

But I'm not starving, nor is my family. I fish for sport and recreation (and the fact that I find it much better for my blood pressure than any medication my doctor ever prescribed). I have the option of not fishing for any number of reasons. I find the current drought situation and the dangerously low water levels combined with dangerously high water temperatures pretty compelling reasons to not fish right now.

I much prefer mountain fishing to tailwater fishing (as my son will attest to), but for the time being I'll stick to the tailwaters. Yeah, it's somewhat artificial, man-made and stocked but it is, after all, sport.

And anyway, in my case... mountain or tailwater I am no threat to trout mortality. Lately I can't catch a cold.

Paula --

I agree with the thin ice. But I think you'll agree that this has been a very informative and lively thread. There's tons of great information here and I'm sure it has spurred others to act and investigate and, hopefully, report their findings back here.
I apologize if I have offended anyone's sensibilities with my thoughts, comments, or words. That was never my intent.

The only bright spot about the drought is that there's no acid rain falling.

Gerry Romer

08-22-2007, 11:00 PM
I've not yet read all of it.

:rolleyes: I'm done!

08-22-2007, 11:30 PM
The waters I fish are located on the Cumberland River.These waters are full of walleye,smallmouth,rainbow and brown trout.Sometimes the fishing is good.The Cumberland is dangerous.The water is hypotermic cold.The river is rough.People come in droves to fish with worms,corn,crank baits,and yes there are a few who fly fish....
I have fished the the Smokeys for 35 years.I come to your mountains to catch little trout,but my ventures there have beento feel that feeling of the place that means something to me.
Statistics are close to an eye that cannot see the big picture.I have not thought of myself as tree hugger,but I guess I am..it has to do with the gentle nail that gets pounded into you,when your life is shorter than longer.You are in a Park where government sponsered studies,and notebooksfull of statistics,puts the truth across the stream,behind a morning fog,you cannot see it---well here is the truth---leave the trout alone--it is their park--they pay their taxes with their presence-stress is our word--we should understand the word--but we do not.It is the Park's future that we should try to nurture,back off boy's,lay the fly rods down....

Byron Begley
08-23-2007, 10:00 AM
Well put Lauxier. And Gerry, this has been a very informative thread. Snaildarter, I anxiously await your return. This has been my favorite thread on this forum so far. As of right now it has been viewed 2,060 times. The only thread that I can remember getting this kind of attention was "Tennessee Trout Management Plan" back in February. That thread has been viewed 2,927 times.

What that tells me is there is a huge amount of interest in the science and management side of fishing. There are a lot of anglers who do not understand the science of fisheries management and I am one of them though I have come a long way.

I'm thinking about a new area on this board devoted to Fisheries Management. Maybe some of the biologists and management people would get on here and explain their positions and what makes them do what they do. And anglers could voice their opinions and ask questions. It might get hot. Heck I know it would get hot. But, I bet everyone would learn and understand each other better.

Fisheries managers and biologists here in Tennessee are out in the public more than they were say back in the 1970's and 80's. The new generation, in my opinion is a lot more likely to hold public meetings and write on public forums because they know that most of the problems they have had in the past are due to lack of information given to the anglers or maybe the information was given but misunderstood. I've seen it evolve. And, here they could do it under the cover of a name like for instance "Stoneroller". Or they could simply use their real name. They could reach thousands of anglers over time as this board grows.


Brian Griffing
08-23-2007, 01:23 PM
At the risk of stepping into the line of fire...
Might I suggest we could get a final, conclusive answer to this debate by employing a time honored tradition: arm wrestling. Snaildarter v. Romer!!! Time and location TBD.
And now I will duck back out of the way.

Mr. Romer, I just wanted to add that beavers don't eat fish.

08-23-2007, 01:50 PM
As I said previously, this has been a great thread. We have shared some science, opinion, common sense, and experience. I thing they all have a place.

Bryon, as usual, you expressed yourself with knowledge, respect, and class. Thank you for that.

Now, I think this thread has exhausted its usefulness and has been relegated to quotes, jousting, and jabs by more than one of us. I think many are like me when I say I am glad to have the knowledge provided, but it is not going to change the way I feel or my code of conduct relative to fishing in the Smoky Mountains.

Thanks to all who provided wisdom.

Brian, thanks for guarding that wall for me and my family.

08-23-2007, 02:03 PM
Ok, I have always assumed that this weather in addition to fishing would be detrimental to the trout, but I wanted a for sure answer so I spoke with one of my professors who is an expert in fishery science and fish physiology (trout being his forte).

He told me that he doesn't think fishing pressure has any additional effect in times like this and that fishing pressure has almost no discernable effect, ever, on our wild trout. He said that natrual mortality is around 50% per year, and the relatively light fishing pressure in the Park and in Cherokee doesn't produce a measureable effect. I guess there used to be trophy regulations on some streams outside the Park but they didn't do anything to the population. There was also a ban on brook trout fishing in the Park and it didn't matter either so it was lifted.

It is certain that our trout have a hard life. He said that the biggest contributors are soft water, poor food, and warm summer temps which keep their lives short, not anglers.

Brian Griffing
08-23-2007, 03:16 PM
Donwinn, thank you for your word of thanks. I have found most people here in TN to be very supportive of the military. Its a good place to be, even if temporarily.
Getting back to the thread. I have enjoyed reading about this topic, but agree that anyone who is going to be swayed either way would have been swayed by now. When you start talking issues where emotions can come into play, at some point most people are going to dig in their heels, for right or for wrong. I guess that's where I was going with that arm wrestling contest. That's just about all we got left, short of slapping each other around with hammers and pie tins like Larry, Moe and Curly... which is also sometimes entirely appropriate.

08-23-2007, 06:29 PM
I stated earlier "I'm Done", I'm now retracting that statement. It is disheartening to see a thread started asking questions regarding "in our eyes" a precious peice of what we call home, trout! Wild stream fed trout! The question raised alot of eyebrows and recieved alot of valid points and mere studies! We, those whom have actually taken the time to read the appointed links :rolleyes:, hilighting valid points accross the board! I won't throw my opinion in here!

To take everyone back to the original question, yes by quotations!

With all the talk of high temps, low water, trout death, and Byron's canceled vacation and classes, I wondered if anyone knows of some good, real data showing the relationships of the above. I've no doubt that stressors increase the mortality of fish; I just wonder what the actual numbers are.

Let's take a look at the flip side of things and I take it one step further and actually challenge the NPS Steve Moore. There is no possible way to be 100% scientific in the matter! All anyone knows is the actual physical makeup of the fish and what conditions the fish prefer, and even that's loosely stated! We are facing the worst droubt in over 50 years as indicated in previous post to this thread. I'm willing to bet Mr. Moore is only 40 to 50 years old and that this would be the first "BAD" droubt he has seen. The stream side conditions then had to have been better then, then they would be today! For several reasons, also as previously stated on this thread. So how could one person say that they "Know what there doing." Were is this information coming from? I'm sure I'm not the only one out there that is scratching there head! I'm only saying that conditions have obviously changed over the period of 50 years and that any information obtained from then and there after wouldn't be sufficient to come to a physical number today! So how would any one know? Let's further our thinking on this matter. All of these studies are exactly that! Merely a study and nothing more.

So let's propose and actual study! What would be the requirments to fill the very question preposed? I would object to any one's proposel simply due to the fact that there are so many (understatement of the year) factors to be considered and a consistant change in variables! What conditions, what streams, what size of trout, what type of trout, were would the fish be taken from-in relation to the stream, etc. Not to mention an onslaught of variable conditions.

So if a group of biologist got together and did some actual "Studies" which would determine the possibilities of you killing trout.....This would require a person to consider all of those factors before heading to the stream to hook a fish and not feel guilty about doing it. Some would some wouldn't feel guilty! Not to mention that person would have to consistantly check those variables as they proceeded plugging throughout they day! Sound's pretty dumb doesn't it. So I say this to Mr. Moore how do you know what you are doing? I mean this in no negative way, but obviously this question has us all "worked up" so how could you come to that statement? This is by no means any "throat punching to Mr. Moore" I can't stress that enough!

So now back to the common sense issue of this thread....Why, as man, do we consistantly press our luck? It is, in my opinion, that's exactly what we are doing and that someday our resources will be deplinished! So common sense would add that fishing in conditions such as this were the water temperatures are at levels the trout don't particularly care for then why go fishing with the possibility of killing more fish? I say this stricly out of frustration due to the lack of common sense some people have anymore! I see and deal with it on a daily basis!

So I leave everyone with that question....How do you perform a "Study" that would conform to "most" stretches of water in the GSMNP to answer the original question, how does temperature and water levels effect trout?

I'm sure that there are several members of this forum that would be willing to give up some of there time and heart to put a nail in this coffin and help in any "Study" that would conform to a wide variety of circumstances! Count me in, I'm obviously not fishing right now anywho!


08-23-2007, 07:11 PM
The interesting thing is to compare how the different parks are managed, concerning trout. My one other experience with wild trout has been up in SNP in Virginia. There, the fishery is almost entirely brook trout, and the size limit is 9 inches. Also, a number of streams are open for catch and release only, and others are closed outright, and this list of streams changes from year to year. Finally, they seem to defer to the state of Virginia concerning regs, which leads to a very strange scenario....brown trout have moved into the park from state waters below, much like what has happened in the Smokies. SNP wants to eliminate all brown trout from park waters, so any brown trout caught in the east slope streams affected cannot be returned to the water. Ok so far, but here's the twist - it is still illegal to posess a brown trout under 9 inches (in compliance with the state law)...so, any undersized brown trout have to be pitched up on the bank! I was up there in April, and I asked about this...the deal is, the park doesn't really care about the size limit on browns, but the minute you leave park jurisdiction, Virginia can write you a citation for posessing undersized trout, so they put out the advisory that way. Bizarre, to say the least, and a complete waste.

08-23-2007, 08:39 PM
this thread has worn me out---all i can say is--we have found no answers--but--there are no answers in the commotion of these arguments,that commenced as a thread,that will only serve to lead us to---September--the month before october--when rains will fall etc....etc.....M. Twain " when summer rains stop,it gets hot,and when it gets hot,they get hot...

Gerry Romer
08-23-2007, 10:22 PM
I'm thinking about a new area on this board devoted to Fisheries Management. Maybe some of the biologists and management people would get on here and explain their positions and what makes them do what they do. And anglers could voice their opinions and ask questions.



YOU HAVE GOT TO DO THIS! Yes, I'm shouting. Seriously, when you consider the amount of interest shown on this board from relatively local anglers about other fishable waters - both warm and cool - and the amount of interest in this board and website from anglers around the globe... it's a natural. You could very easily become THE clearinghouse for fisheries information! You want to increase your spider count by a factor of at least 1,000? add a fisheries management forum to this website. This... this is genius, my friends.:cool:

golfballs03, this entire thread began with the moot question, "how bad is bad?" The initial premise was, if fishing has only a negligible negative impact on trout mortality, why not go ahead and fish when the fish are dying anyway? The point that fishing has little or no impact on the mortality statistics was inherent in the question, which is why I questioned the motive behind the question. As I said, it was moot. However, I still believe that valuable information has come out of this discussion. And Byron's idea to add a fisheries management information forum would seem to bear me out. Sometimes you just have to take the bad with the good... sorry :rolleyes: .

Brian, first, I would like to add my sincere thanks for your service.

Then, if we're talking food fight? Game On!! Key Lime pies at 5 paces? I'm there!! Arm wrestling?? Well, first, it'd have to be restricted to left arms so as not to unduly stress my casting/retrieving/tooth-brushing right arm. BTW I really, really like your signature line. If I were a member of another message board, trust me I WOULD STEAL IT! I also appreciate the fact that you use your given name... or at least I assume so. Decades ago, I used to have a handle. When cb's were the rage and "we got us a convoy" was a phrase that had no military connotation, I gave into the lunacy of a "handle". I've been playing around in cyberspace for a while now and I just don't understand the need to hide behind a handle. NOT THAT THAT'S A BAD THING... (I'm not slamming anyone who uses a handle. I just don't understand it.)

lauxier, sorry, dude, but october is about the least rainiest month on the calendar over the last 100 years. and if this drought follows the pattern of 1988, the balance won't be restored until 2013. march of '94, townsend got the flood. pray for rain... in moderation (as with all things).

Finally, it seems that according to the latest statistics, the only thing that does not cause cancer in laboratory rats/mice is .. (wait for it... wait for it...) moderation.

Gerry Romer :biggrin:

08-23-2007, 10:40 PM
We talked a little about the water situation tonight at the TU meeting. I believe at the Oct. LRTU meeting, Matt Culp (GSMNP Fisheries Biologist) is going to give a talk about what they feel will be the effects on the trout due to this years drought situation. I would encourage everyone to attend and ask questions. There are alot of passionate folks on this board so this will be an opportunity to ask and maybe hear what our own local experts have to say. Meetings are the 4th thursdays of the month.

08-24-2007, 01:00 AM
I think we have all spent a tremendous amount of time googling, reading, googling, reading, and googling some more in relation to this topic.

I think if you look back on this entire thread it all relates to one single thing, ethics....Morals to sport fishing! Clearly stating that tossing the rod around is just that, a sport. In regards to the original question and statements made that followed after it appears to me to be a question of morals! Is it ok to potentially kill fish in these temperatures? No one knows the real answer!

I will say this, after doing much "Googling" I stumbled across anther forum (out west) that refers to fish kill in high temperatures in low water. There was a man on the board who said that he felt it unethical to potentially kill fish ecspecially living within close proximity to the fishery. He further stated that if he were a man whom had planned and paid for a vacation to go to a specific fishery and was unable to change his agenda then he would fish the water! Taking it a step further he stated that his love for this game species had him wheeping over the though of potentially killing a fish! Therefor he stated it would be extra time to spend with his family and enjoy his vacation by other means! I think to myself, brilliantly spoken!

So if this question was proposed as a matter of ethics, then I ask this. How far do you live from the park? What other options do you have?

So back once again to the original question. If you had to ask that particular question, chances are you probably already know the answer! One of those.....If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck.....It's probably a duck! So if you live within close proximity to the park, then why risk the chance unless your feeding your family...If your just in it for the sport of things then I would suggest trying a different stream with better flows....Or just go spend some hard earned cash and go buy a vice and materials. Build up an arsenal for the right conditions to catch fish under!

If it's a matter of ethics, I'm against fishing in these conditions! And no I won't throw stones at you should you decide to go under these conditions...After all it's too darn hot!! A record breaking 102 degree's today!

Gary! I'm debating a lifetime membership to the FFF or TU....I think my money would be better spent through TU! The nearest FFF chapter I believe is in Nashville! Count me in on the October meeting, I'd say we will both be there!

Byron, I, of course, second the fisheries management section to the forum. Why do I say Byron, Paula seeing as your the moderator and knowing he has his hands full right now will you please set us up with this! Thank you! Oh, and get Mr. Moore and his buddies on here so we can get their blood boiling while their at home on the computer and pick all of their brains on honey holes! I kidd....on second thought, no I don't. I'm sure getting some of these guys on the board would make for a stellar forum anyone who fishes the GSM would want to be part of!

Brian, thanks again for your service and for the comment on the beaver....he needed that! I'm sure it got more than just a laugh from him!

Donwinn, I'm glad to see you got on task quicker than I did, "code of conduct" morals to fishing and sprotsman's ethics! Kudo's to you!

A good point was also brought up earlier in regards to people backing what there saying....There has been alot learned in this thread, and yes there has been some "jousting" but I would strongly stand up to what I believe until the cold hard facts came out proving me wrong. I wouldn't neccessarily argue till I was blue in the face.....never mind I already have....But what I would say on here, in this very thread, I would stand behind what I have said in a face to face with someone!

My wife hates the computer right now....I have paid more attention to it than I have her....or at least she says.....Nevermind she is right!
Limp Lines....for now!

08-24-2007, 01:30 AM
Very well stated...it is, after all, a sport - this isn't the 19th century, and we don't need the fish to put food on the table. If one could guarantee that every fish hooked was of legal size, it would be one thing - you could at least keep them and bring them home for dinner. However, look at all the 5-6 inch fish that are out there. So, even though our fishing efforts have little to no effect on the population, if we know that, in a given stream situation, that our hooking and playing a fish will probably kill it, it's hard to justify fishing that stream at that point.

I'll be driving up tomorrow night - I'm looking at some property Saturday morning. Afterwards, I'll drive around to some of my favorite streams and take a look. If they're fishable (good temps AND flowing water), I'll fish. If not, I won't - simple as that. Some watersheds seem to have better aquifers than others, and some have lucked out with a little more rain this summer than others. Little River is a prime example; I've watched the radar almost every day this summer, and it is uncanny how often the rain has just missed falling in that watershed - it's either on the other side of the mountains in North Carolina, or it's further to the east, etc. As a result, it's been low pretty much all summer. I fished Tremont briefly one evening back in June on one of our trips, and even then the water was on the warm side - I haven't been back there since, except to just look. My daughter and I fished Road Prong three weeks ago, and while the water was on the low side, it was still flowing nicely and had a good temperature...but that was at the end of that little rainy spell the mountains had. If I get a chance, I'll take a look, but I'll bet it's marginal right now.

Sooner or later, the pattern will change...in the meantime, it is hard to watch and wait.

08-24-2007, 10:52 AM
have always been told SMNP's climate is rain forest like--which means lots of rain---were you serious about Oct being the dry-est month of the year if,if so,moderate rain forest rainfall would be heavy rainfall elsewhere,we are not getting either----2013?? that's kind of depressing...had no idea it takes that long for mama nature to rebound.....

08-25-2007, 10:34 AM
I sense two different views being expressed on this thread. The views reflect a deeper split of a value system to the environment. This rift is symbolized by the differences here.

The first is a view attempting to rationalize reasons to fish this time of the year, despite the current water conditions. Some with this view looks at research, but seems to primarily look for the tidbits of research to support their view. Ironically, that has led to statements of research that fishing pressure even in these water conditions do not significantly effect fish populations. Although this is likely true, to adopt this as a rationalization to fish in these current conditions conveys an attitude that it is ok to kill fish, maybe numerous fish, for the sake of your desire to fish. If you hook into 25 fish, and eventally contribute to the death of 1/2 due to the extra stress of their fighting, and lactic acid build up, in already precarious conditions that have significantly weakened the fish, is that acceptable? Maybe that will not significanly effect trout populations, if one looks at a statistical model of trout populations in all of the Smoky Nat PK. However, if you seen a poacher carrying out 12 brook trout on a chain, is that acceptable? Is there really, at the bottom line, a difference? Maybe the poacher is even more ethical, as he might enjoy them for dinner.

The second view is people who also likely have a strong desire to fish, but do not attempt to rationalize it in this current environment, but rather "take it safe." Some of them are also responding to research, and probably have more research to support their position. This position, in my opinion, views the risk of fishing in these current conditions, as probably eventually killing more trout than they feel is ok. The protection of the resource, even a small part, such as not killing 12 fish, is stronger than the desire to fish. This view does not seek the rationalizations to fish, but rather to protect the fish.

Thus I would not be suprised if the sides of this thread also reflect a deeper division in value systems to the environment, (such as global warming), and how important a natural resource is, even a miniscule 12 wild trout in a stream with thousands.

08-25-2007, 11:10 AM
I'm not trying to justify fishing in the park now, I just wanted to know the real truth about the conditions and the effects of fishing. That is the purpose of the thread. Of course some will choose to still fish the park, but what isn't debatable is the lousy fishing. I'm sticking to the tailwaters for now anyway.

Gerry Romer
08-25-2007, 11:24 AM
have always been told SMNP's climate is rain forest like--which means lots of rain---were you serious about Oct being the dry-est month of the year if,if so,moderate rain forest rainfall would be heavy rainfall elsewhere,we are not getting either----2013?? that's kind of depressing...had no idea it takes that long for mama nature to rebound.....

lauxier --

Here's a link to the October statistic. http://www.worldclimate.com/cgi-bin/data.pl?ref=N35W083+2200+409063C

It's just a quick, down and dirty summary and may not be all that comprehensive but it shows the three driest months for Townsend, TN being: August 3.7" avg., September 2.7" avg., and October 2.6" avg. The comment about 2013 was a bit of a joke. Ha, ha... If you recall, we actually had a blizzard in '93 that would have broken the back of that '88 drought!! :eek:

As I was having breakfast early this am, I was watching a report on CNN about the Midwest flooding. They put up a map of the US showing all of the flash flood areas. The highlighted area started in Missouri, went up through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. It was like this gigantic red donut surrounding poor little Tennesse... The rain really is all around us. A client asked me why it is that the rain states are getting all the media coverage when the drought states are having a really hard time. I told her the simple answer; Brown doesn't photograph well for TV.:biggrin:


08-25-2007, 11:32 AM
customer,female,this morning...."I didnot know there were trout in the Smokey's,and I have been going down there for 40 years,of course I have'nt got around to going into the park yet.I have never heard of "stressed trout",I've been under a lot of stress myself,my husband is a jerk......

she is a good customer,nice lady,good mother,but is no threat to Einstein...I think she relates stress and Park trout with collection agencies and bad husbands

08-25-2007, 11:57 AM
Well thought out post. Think you hit the nail square on the head.
Wonder if any minds have been changed by this thread?
Great discussions but doubt minds have been changed.

Be glad when the temp goes down and the water goes up.

08-25-2007, 11:58 AM
Thus I would not be suprised if the sides of this thread also reflect a deeper division in value systems to the environment, (such as global warming), and how important a natural resource is, even a miniscule 12 wild trout in a stream with thousands.

I was going to stay out of this, after stating my opinions earlier, but we seem to have headed down the ethical side of the stream and I feel compelled to jump back in.

As a few folks have mentioned, you can support either side of this argument with statistics. Its amazing that the studies that Brookiefly, SnailDarter and others have posted, have enough holes in them to support either claim which roughly look like: 1) Don’t fish when the conditions are marginal – there’s no sense to stressing already stressed fish, or 2) Fishing has such a insignificant impact on trout – it doesn’t matter what conditions are, fishing is OK.

There are some folks very emotional about both sides of this argument and are willing to toss around global warming, acid rain, natural selection, tubers and a whole bunch of other issues in, to support their claim or refute the claims of others. We even have some folks bashing scientists/biologists because they don’t support their position.

We must realize that there is NO clear cut answer to this dilemma. Lets look at both arguments and why neither of them is 100% supportable.

Position 1) “Don’t additionally stress fish that are under stress”
If it's true that there are 2000-4000 trout per mile of stream and we look at a water flow reduction of 75% or more, there is no doubt that many/most of the trout would be under stress. If that's the case, I think you could rationally say that we should be trying to reduce the number of trout in the streams, for the greater good of the ones that would remain (limited food source, cover, etc). Really, isn’t that some of the rationale behind hunting for deer and other animals. That if there wasn’t some thinning of populations through hunting, the entire population would be less healthy. The same could be said of the conditions we were in right now with our fish. If some reduction is done in the numbers of fish, the overall population remaining would be better off.

Position 2) “It doesn’t matter what conditions are, fishing is OK”
If you look purely at the data and the scientists opinions you could support this claim. However, if you look at the effect you have of stepping into the middle of a pool and watching fish scatter and hunker down, you realize that even during the best of conditions our actions will stress fish into hiding positions. Given that the water is very low and warm, any time our fish are spending hiding, they are usually away from the best available DO water and also are not able to feed, which in turn impacts their health, which then adds more stress. Really the fishing part is probably not the most stressful act; its walking near/in the streams and spooking fish. Its possible that if we stay away from the streams the fish would be better off.

Neither position is 100% defensible. So what’s the answer?

I don’t believe there is one. We can all form our own opinions and then live by what we believe in. There doesn’t seem to be any clear cut answer to the dilemma. Ethical behavior is doing what you believe is the right thing. As long as we all listen to our conscience we are acting ethically. Let’s not bash each other over our differing opinions.

I’m not fishing because it doesn’t feel right. I don’t have any better explanation than that. But I am certainly not going to get up on a soapbox and tell others what to do, or not do. No one has the true, clearly defined information to support either side of this argument. If you want to state your opinion - fine, just don't cram your opinions down other peoples throats. And let's not start talking about Global Warming...

08-25-2007, 02:06 PM
petecz...very well stated. also, I'll second no global warming talk.

this whole discussion is based on the idea that if one DID go fishing, one would catch fish. I haven't fished the park in all this mess, but personally, I don't think you would catch many, if any fish anyway, if you did. that's the first reason I stopped fishing there, and since, haven't had to worry too much about the other reasons because I'm not fishing there anyway. I certainly don't want to tell the next guy he shouldn't go fish there. If he wants to go cast his fly over dry rocks into shallow puddles, good luck to him.

brookiefly, I think you are right about there being a rift. the rift is 2 different angles which are: the fishery as a whole, and the trout as an individual.

when looking at the fishery as a whole, it seems that a "thinning of the herd" may actually be a good thing, both for the trout, as well as you and I. information so far seems to suggest that fishing in these conditions will have no negative impact on the fishery.

If we look at the trout as an individual, information suggests that fishing WILL have an impact on that trout that you catch or maybe just spook.

some people look at one angle of this, but I think most probably have a mixture of both of the above two views, which is what makes this so difficult. reasons to fish, or not, can be broken down this way:

1. If I fish, I will hurt the trout I catch and he may possibly die.
2. If I fish, the impact on the fishery will not be negative, possibly positive.
3. If I fish, it'll probably be lousy anyway, so what's the point?

there really is no right or wrong in this situation. I'm not fishing now because of number 3 on the above list. if I thought I could go up there and wear 'em out right now, I don't know if I would do it or not. probably not. If I were to fish, I would probably at least eat the ones of legal size.

Brian Griffing
08-25-2007, 02:19 PM
Great points. I have been thinking exactly what you wrote about seeing trout as a collective or as an individual. And I was right there with you until reason #3 for not fishing. If you're not fishing b/c the fishing is lousy, why do you ever go? If your goal is only to bring fish to hand, don't chase trout, chase bluegill. I doubt there are many people in this forum that go "catching". We go fishing. The fishing can be great, even if the catching is lousy.

08-25-2007, 03:15 PM
Gerry, I saw the same CNN report. Unfortunately for Kentucky, most of those areas are very isolated in their rainfall. Central and Eastern KY is about as dry as East TN with water advisories almost every where.

08-28-2007, 09:21 PM
I was at the Pittman Center City Hall today and watched a 10 inch trout walk down Webb Creek. It looked like there was only 1.5-2 inches of water flowing in the deep parts of that section. I guess it was going downstream to look for more water.

Gerry Romer
08-28-2007, 09:30 PM
The few fish I saw on Tremont Sunday couldn't even walk... even the dinks were struggling.

08-28-2007, 10:33 PM
I drove through Metcalf Bottoms on the way out of the park, and I find it hard to believe that anything other than tadpoles were left in there. What I found shocking was the temp I got on the West Prong of the Little Pigeon, around mile marker 6 on the road; 69.5 degrees, in a stream that, from everything I've read, is normally always cold - I know it was a few weeks ago. Not only do the mountains need rain, they need some cool nights as well.

The difference between the streams on the N.C. and Tennessee sides was really striking. I've seen it on the radar time and time again - showers will pop up on the N.C. side, grow and move up the mountains, then stop right on the state line. The weather pattern is fascinating, but frustrating at the same time.

Gerry Romer
09-01-2007, 02:28 PM
Let me start by saying that I am not trying to start up something new here.

I found this article in this morning's Daily Times (local to Blount County) and I thought that it provides a necessary backdrop for what I have been trying to say. The books are now closed on August and the official word is that Tennessee just endured the hottest August on record, coupled with a drought that began last winter. I commented earlier that we were in uncharted territory...

Here's the full article:

Now, if we go all the way back to the beginning of this thread, there was a request made for "real data... studies or even anecdotal evidence" that would deliver the facts. Further, "Without that data, it just becomes a battle of anecdotal viewpoints."

Okay, maybe I just really didn't make my point clear at the outset.

As I recall, to arrive at a set of data that could be deemed scientific, the trials, experiments, or studies would first have to be repeatable. Someone else would have to be able to replicate all facets of the study.

Clearly, when you are experiencing record temperatures and drought conditions that no one has seen before in their lifetime, this set of conditions cannot be replicated. The initial question is rendered moot as there can be no data available for conditions which have not existed in our recorded time.

Who would want to replicate these conditions anyway?

And if the conditions cannot be replicated, and you cannot arrive at "real data" through accepted scientific method... well then about all you're left with is the anecdotal evidence. So when a Steve Moore says he knows what he's doing, we pretty much have to take his word for it.

When all of the anecdotal evidence is rejected out of hand, I have to question the motivation of the initial request.

To me, the initial question was just plain silly and didn't deserve a legitimate response. I am glad however that many people contributed links to some fascinating information. I learned a lot about what was probably triggering my own mid-summer fishing success.

What bothered me from the outset was the timing of this whole thing. The initial post came up hot on the heels of Byron's appearance on local TV, advising fishermen to not fish in the mountains at the time. It may or may not have been, but I saw it as a direct attack on Byron and his character. I felt then and I feel today that Byron did the right thing. Sure it may have cost him business in the middle of an already difficult summer, but I believe it gained him (and his business) immeasurable credibility and goodwill.

As I said, I felt the question was silly and didn't even need to be asked. To me, however, the timing and the comments regarding Byron's public position suggested another agenda.

Thanks to all for the invaluable information!

Gerry Romer

09-01-2007, 04:28 PM
I took a look at the Huntsville NWS site, and they had some interesting statistics. Some of their stations are as much as 50 inches below normal for a three year period...that's the key - this drought is not just this year, it has been in the works for a couple of years, and it will take a couple of years to get out of it. The water table is low, so the streams are at the mercy of whatever rainfall they receive...that's why there's such a wide discrepancy between streams. For example, the entire Little River watershed was, until this week, really hurting - certainly not fishable, from what I could see. On the other hand, I found Straight Fork over in N.C. to have a nice flow and great temps - that area has received rain, and it also has several headwater streams that start very high up. Now, I wouldn't even have gone to the mountains last week if I wasn't up there to look at some property; that 9 hour drive is a bit much just to find marginal conditions, at best. I would like to make an October trip, but I will probably pass on it if the mountains have another dry spell like this last one. Hopefully, the pattern is changing; I know that the moisture hasn't been far away - we've had a fairly wet, "normal" summer here on the gulf coast, except for the beginning of August.

Gerry Romer
09-01-2007, 08:23 PM
ijsouth --

Thanks for the info. Byron and I were talking about the drought last weekend and neither one of us has been able to come up with any definitive info that says this is a multi-year drought. I've felt all along that we're in the middle of something that's going to take a while to get out of. That's what was behind my earlier joke about the Townsend flood of '94 and the blizzard of '93.:biggrin:


09-01-2007, 08:29 PM
Everything I've read about droughts points to persistence - once drought conditions set in, it takes a lot to pull out of them...the conditions feed on themselves. Right now, the long-range predictions really don't tell us much - there's an equal chance of below or above average precipitation and temperatures for the next several months. Now, I think the streams will be fine, provided they get some rain every few days or so; they'll need that until the water table gets built back up.

It's early, but one possibility is for Felix to curve into the gulf (bad for us here on the coast), and work its way inland (good for the mountains). Most of the models have it taking a similar path to Dean, but it is quite early.

09-06-2007, 03:32 PM
Well, back from vacation in the Adirondacks. Fishing was great, and the weather was spectacular, although I never hooked a pike like I wanted to. In fact, caught mostly largemouths (one about 4 pounds or so).

I have spent some time re-reading everything in this thread, including the studies. I think there is enough material to review here that to simply comment on it all would easily fill a 300 page supermarket 12-step book. I am going make a few statements, and then put this thread out of my life for a while. I think that everyone can agree here that it can be very exhausting to continually defend your point of view, and at some point, it can easily feel as if your back is against the wall, and it turns into something else - an ego fight. That's no good for anyone.

This thread certainly went nuclear. That was unanticipated by me. I didn't handle that as well as I should have. I'll be more prepared for that in the future. I've never really experienced anything quite like this.

While re-reading everything, I took all your comments to heart. For example, I see why Gerry thinks I was arrogant. I didn't feel arrogant, but seeing it from his point of view, well, I can see it. Sorry Gerry, I'll honestly try to not be that way in the future. Please accept my apology. I would still like to fish with any of you, and I don't want to damage those possibilities any more than I already have! I know some of you may laugh at that, but I do mean it.

Since I left, I see the thread went on without me pretty well (or maybe even better?). There are some fantastic posts, and by most everyone involved. I started naming all the good posts, but that list included practically everyone who posted. I especially liked Fishermansfly's ethics post. Part of the reason this thread exploded like it did was because we were really talking about more than one big issue, although I didn't see it at first. The Big Issues might have been better asked separately:

1) How high a temp kills trout?
2) How low a water kills trout?
3) Does angling pressure matter in the Smokies?
4) Even if it doesn't matter, is it ethical to fish under these bad conditions?

Perhaps, had this been broken out into more threads, each trying to answer the above questions separately, the discussions would have went more smoothly. Combining them all into one thread was unwieldy and extremely complicated. For example, brookiefly touched on this in his post about a rift between competing value systems. It shouldn't have taken 8 pages of posts to come to such a good bit of wisdom.

There are so many good posts since I left. 63, 66, 68, 70, 73, 78, 79, 80, and well, 85, Gerry's post again wondering about my motives, the timing of my post, my political agenda, the silliness of my question, and his thinking that I may be attacking Byron. I don't want to incite any more argument by defending myself much, so I'll just say that my motives were only to try to figure out what is the closest thing to truth here. I've personally communicated with Byron a few times about this thread, and as everyone has stated here, he is a most excellent and honest person. Gerry, I think I understand where you come from now, and hopefully that understanding will make me a better communicator in the future.

SO, to quickly answer questions 1-4 above, with NO REAL ATTEMPT to defend my beliefs:

1) and 2) should be combined. The question is really how much stress kills a trout. And so you would combine water levels, temperature, food availability, stream disease load, dissolved oxygen, acidity, metal ions, salt, angler pressure, species specific hardiness, and other factors to come up with something like a "stress factor." And then, with enough data, you could say, "Uh-oh, looks like the Stress Factor is over 100 today, the fish are really in trouble." Of course there will never be enough data to do something like that. I think that maybe the studies showing that fish are fine even up to say, 75 degrees, tend to show that only in an otherwise very good environment for the fish. But as we all know, in natural conditions, if the water is at 75, then it is probably also very low. So I guess that that is my final belief on this matter. The temps only matter as part of the whole package of stressors. But if you find 75 degree water, the vast likelihood is that those other stressors are also bad too, so you could assume that fishing in 75 degree water, most of the time, will have a high mortality on the fish you catch. But to extend this further, I think that even if you found 65 degree water in our current conditions, many of the streams are so deadly low, that you may still kill about as many trout.

3) The answer here is probably no, at current levels. That doesn't mean that all the folks on this forum couldn't act in concert on a single stream and kill nearly everything in there, but I believe that the biologists have a pretty good handle on this one. It is interesting to think, that say if 50% of the fish have died this summer, you could maybe have made the situation better by fishing for them, thinning their numbers, so that maybe 10% died by anglers having fun, and 40% died from the drought and other stuff. Just a thought.

4) I'll be noncommittal on that one. I'll say that a decision to fish is a decision to stress some, and to kill some, no matter how good or bad the conditions.

I wish everyone here well, and I continue to hope for rain.

p.s., I'm not arm wrestling anyone! :smile:

Byron Begley
09-06-2007, 04:23 PM

Good to have you back. Your new post is well written as usual and well thought out. I never once thought you were attacking me.

About the time you left I started getting reports of dead trout, as many as six visible in one pool. The rumor from the park was that about half the population had died. Remember the used book I ordered? Trout Biology. It came in and there was nothing about trout mortality due to temperature.

While you were gone we did get some rain and the streams rose to fishable levels. Also the water temperature dropped. A lot of people fished in the park and reported back to me. I didn't hear any bad fishing reports. It was about like usual. Everyone I talked to said the fish looked healthy. Glenn Allgood fished on the Middle Prong today and caught about 30 trout. Joe McGroom who also works here went up to the Crusher Hole with a mask and swam around looking for large trout. He said the water was too cold so he couldn't stay in very long.

I guess you can see that things are pretty bad in your part of the state. Much worse than here.


09-06-2007, 10:02 PM
Thank you; I'm glad to be back. And I'm glad that you didn't think that I was attacking you.

I'm also glad to hear that the streams are up to fishing levels again. Actually, I'm extremely glad to hear that. Too cold to snorkel? That hardly seems believable, given this endless summer and drought. Wonderful!

Yes, the drought lingers on here. Walking through the yard crunches all the dead grass. It's pretty amazing.