(September 19, 2012) Rain Continues To Pound South Central Alaska;
Adding insult to injury the fall fishing season is under siege by heavy rains and threatened by bank high rivers and creeks from Denali to Seward and beyond. Coming on the heels of a dismal set of salmon returns the rivers and creeks of South Central are now in peril of overflowing their banks.
When a situation like this looms there is much more at stake than whether or not I can go fishing. I am not a fisheries biologist but I do a respectable job of connecting the dots considering natural disasters in relationship to rivers, creeks and their inhabitants.
Flooding is bad, just plain bad when you think about salmon and trout reproduction in the wild. There are obvious threats such as bottom scouring in areas where the flow velocity reaches proportions that give way to the bottom strata being disturbed. This phenomena can result in the destruction of nest beds that (in the fall) are filled with fertilized eggs that have already began to develop. In the event of severe flooding and scouring of a stream bed the nests and their precious contents are inevitably lost.
At this time the beds that are at risk would be those of the King salmon and all early runs of chum, sockeye, and pink salmon as well. September is the spawning month in my region for Pacific silver salmon. South Central Alaska's return of Silvers was dismal at best with more closures than ever before. With the current hydrological conditions those scant few spawning silvers are facing a tremendous threat to their being able to fulfill their life long mission of propagation for their species.
Another disastrous effect of flooding and I believe one that is overlooked by fishermen and society at large is that when a river or creek leaves its channel the water carries with it hundreds of thousands of young fish, salmon and trout et al. The spawning from year 2011 produces fry of the year in early spring of the following year, in this case 2012. Those tiny salmon, trout, char, grayling and all other fishes dwell in the relative safety of the near shore environment. As rising waters and their accompanying velocities push the fry & parr fish ever closer to the edge of the water, in the case of extreme high flows this area is actually what should be dry land, the threat of destruction increases ten fold. When the river escapes its natural channels the water carries with, any and all who have been seeking shelter from the high and muddy flows at the shore line. Of course when the water subsides many, many of those unfortunates become landlocked and will perish. In short this is a very bad thing to see happening again. I witnessed this same scenario in September of 2006 and believe to some extent that that flooding was in some part responsible for the low returns of many species seen in the years 2009 - current.
There is nothing that can be done at this time but to wait and see how bad this gets. For the overall future of salmon in South Central I hope I am wrong. I do however believe that the combinations of; increased pressure from both the commercial fishing industry and recreational fishing are not sustainable when interfaced with sever fall flooding. Unfortunately, such is the threat as I write this.
Yes, there's more at stake here than whether or not I can go fishing today so I can write a fishing report for the forum readers..............
I am aware of the terrible dry & hot conditions that grip many other parts of our continent but alas the weather is not something I can send to you. Having lived in many places and fished many more I know that the pain of watching a rivers course shrink and warm from incessant heat and lack of rain is equally painful. I hope that those places that need rain to support their ecosystems will get it and that places like my home here can get a reprieve from the current deluge.
Would be interesting to track periods of extreme water flow and its relation to the fish population. Especially over 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. Who knows, maybe the bottom scouring is necessary to remove certain bacteria whose buildup becomes detrimental to the young fry. You may find yourself in for a salmon resurgence in the next 5 years!!!
I do know this, if there is a positive to be found, you will find it.
Unfortunately Dave, there is no positive aspect to this occurrence. A quick for instance; the hundreds of thousands of carcases from sockeye, pink, and early chum and kings provide a much relied upon source of nutrients to fish and terrestrial animals alike. Every thing from fox to brown bears scavenge the bodies as they drift ashore. The ones that lie on the bottom or are caught in the sweepers decompose and the chunks of decaying flesh are what actually led to the advent of 'The Flesh Fly'. Hungry trout, char, and grayling gobble up this annual cornucopia of food each fall and it plays a major roll in the winter survival of many species. When you consider a flooded river or creek literally blasting this organic material out to sea there is no upside to the event.
That's only one doom & gloom aspect of these things.
been in contact with friends all over south central ak, and i hear you loud and clear.
seward is completely flooded, and from what i hear the kenai and all other peninsula streams are at or above flood level.