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Thread: Dams and Seasonal Movements

  1. #1

    Dams and Seasonal Movements

    Hi everyone.

    It's getting cold in Western NY (about an hour and a half south of Buffalo and Rochester) and it would seem like the fish are probably either at or headed to the location where they plan to spend the winter.
    I've located one pool where I've caught 2 good fish in the past few days dead sticking tubes. Yesterday we saw snow and it was 36 degrees when I reeled in a 17 incher. I couldn't tell you what the water temp or depth was but I know it was an area with very low current.

    Now here is my question.

    I've spent the year catching a lot of fish from a particular stretch of river. This area is roughly 1/2 a mile long and starts and ends with small dams. You can see the scale of what I'm talking about in the background of the photo below:

    23432271_10215404893659475_713033072_o.jpg

    This area doesn't have any particularly "wintery" features to it from my vantage point on the river bank. It's relatively shallow but the biggest non-winter hole feature seems to be the lack of substantial current blocking refuge.
    Judging from the size of the dam in the photo, do you think there is any way this population of fish is moving past this dam area during high water events? It would seem unlikely to me but I'm far from tooting myself as an expert on this topic.
    What I do know for sure is I caught 2 bass from a particular area within this stretch that offers a bit more current blocking refuge than the rest of the area on March 31st. If you've ever spent any time in Western NY, you'll know that March is still very much winter.
    But it was a VERY mild late February and a cold March...

    What do you think? Are the fish spending their winter months in this 1/2 mile stretch or is there a possibility that they are moving past these small dams for better winter refuge?

    Any advice or conversation on the topic is appreciated.

    SA

  2. #2
    Yearling Egall816 is on a distinguished road
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    Like you said I'm no expert but in my. Local waters sometimes the "hole for them is literally a 4/5ft hole. Its tough to tell in that pic but down steam is there more dams? There could also be a cut out somewhere in the middle that drops the depth enough for them.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Egall816 View Post
    Like you said I'm no expert but in my. Local waters sometimes the "hole for them is literally a 4/5ft hole. Its tough to tell in that pic but down steam is there more dams? There could also be a cut out somewhere in the middle that drops the depth enough for them.
    Yes, you're describing a similar situation to this river. 4-5 feet is relatively deep. That is the up-stream dam from the section I'm talking about. The farthest upstream side of the stretch. Down stream approximately half mile is a similar dam. I'm very curious to know if people think/know that fish move past these obstructions.

  4. #4
    Smallie blake is on a distinguished road
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    A 1.5 or 2 ft rise in river levels, and they can move over the dam.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by blake View Post
    A 1.5 or 2 ft rise in river levels, and they can move over the dam.
    Out of curiosity, how do know this for sure? Not at all doubting what your saying, just curious where the info came from.

  6. #6
    Smallie Norm M is on a distinguished road
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    Quote Originally Posted by smallieaddict View Post
    Out of curiosity, how do know this for sure? Not at all doubting what your saying, just curious where the info came from.
    likely because he checks the gauges on every trip , has similar sized dams and knows from observation and gauge checking that the water is higher than the dam .

    if you don't check your usgs gauges regularly and combine the flow rates/height with what you see happening to the river you are missing out on valuble insight in how your river works and how the fish react to those changes .
    Embrace the experience , not the accounting .

    Bacon be the goods .

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Norm M View Post
    likely because he checks the gauges on every trip , has similar sized dams and knows from observation and gauge checking that the water is higher than the dam .

    if you don't check your usgs gauges regularly and combine the flow rates/height with what you see happening to the river you are missing out on valuble insight in how your river works and how the fish react to those changes .
    Right makes sense. But are there any studies/observation of smallies seasonally migrating past similar dams?

  8. #8
    Smallie Al A is on a distinguished road
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    The question is, does that rise happen in the fall? Secondary question...do the fish move downstream or upstream in the fall?

    I suspect that a lot of fish move downstream, over the downstream dam, in autumn, and assuming the usual high water (often very high water) in the spring, move back up over that dam then. And fish upstream from the upstream dam probably move over it in the fall, as well. But do ANY appreciable numbers stay in the pool you're talking about between the dams in the winter? Or do most of them keep going downstream until they find suitable wintering water?

    I guess what I'm saying is that I have no idea But, IF there is decent wintering water in between your dams, there should be fish there, no matter where they came from. And if there isn't, there probably won't be many fish in the winter.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Al A View Post
    The question is, does that rise happen in the fall? Secondary question...do the fish move downstream or upstream in the fall?

    I suspect that a lot of fish move downstream, over the downstream dam, in autumn, and assuming the usual high water (often very high water) in the spring, move back up over that dam then. And fish upstream from the upstream dam probably move over it in the fall, as well. But do ANY appreciable numbers stay in the pool you're talking about between the dams in the winter? Or do most of them keep going downstream until they find suitable wintering water?

    I guess what I'm saying is that I have no idea But, IF there is decent wintering water in between your dams, there should be fish there, no matter where they came from. And if there isn't, there probably won't be many fish in the winter.
    Al, thanks for articulating the question a bit more elaborately. I'm nearly certain this particular group of fish won't be moving upstream as they will quickly be running into a substantially larger dam that I seriously doubt they could or would try to surpass. I think I'm just going to start by dissecting the area between dams. We're looking at a daytime high of 21 degrees tomorrow so the water will be significantly dropping in temperature in the near future.

  10. #10
    Smallie blake is on a distinguished road
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    Quote Originally Posted by smallieaddict View Post
    Out of curiosity, how do know this for sure? Not at all doubting what your saying, just curious where the info came from.
    No SWAG. What Norm says is true, but also in my previous line of work one of my primary duties was analyzing and make recommendations on fish passage systems. Additionally, I was responsible for writing the criteria to determine the effectiveness of the fish passages, once built. On other, not so effective fish passages, additional studies would be ordered to determine any corrections to be implemented. While the fish passages that I worked with were not specific to smallmouth, observational data showed me what type of barriers did indeed stop smallmouth bass movement.
    Last edited by blake; 11-09-2017 at 09:58 PM. Reason: comma added for clarity

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