Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wondering about Deschutes Water Temperatures

If you fish the Deschutes you've noticed changes in  the summer water temperatures, the presence of brown algae, unreliable Macroinvertebrates hatches and steelhead runs are later. Like me, you wonder what is going on and what is being done. Deschutes River Alliance (DRA) has been collaboratively working using, science-based solutions to address basin-wide threats that may adversely affect the health and function of the lower Deschutes River and tributaries.  I've asked Dave Moskowitz of Deschutes River Alliance a few questions. 

Can you  tell me the current status of water releasing and how this is effecting steelhead?  
No data has been released from the Pelton fisheries workshops that were held in March.  Our understanding is that results are very poor. What is available are the trapdata at Pelton, and returning numbers are really poor as well for adults.  I'm talking about reintroduction returns for the arts of the river above Pelton-Round Butte. 

 It seems there is more green and brown algae that I would relate to warm water, is this true? What kind of algae is it?  
The green plants you see in many runs are not algae but a plant.  There is the elodea which is dark green, and then there is a bright green plant that grows in many places as well.  Those are not algae.

The primary algae in the lower river are two species of nuisance algae that are more golden brown or dull beige-green.  These are not invasive but are considered nuisance because they are inedible by bugs and snails. Algae is the base of the food chain but not the primary species we are seeing in the lower river.

The algae is not primarily here because of the temperatures.  The flow regime for the lower river begins in January and there is primarily a top release from Lake Billy Chinook (LBC) and it continues through the spring and early summer.  The warm water may help the algae bloom earlier but the top releases are of nutrient laden waters and they are the principle risk to the lower river.
Have the hatches been effected ? Later or earlier hatches? 
The bug hatches are continuing to be affected.  Few if any March browns.  Very sporadic PMD and PED hatches with some amazing hatches followed by nothing.  Same with caddies.  Blizzard hatches one day, nothing the next.  No crane flies.  Huge midge hatches.  Timing and density appear to be very variable.  Trout guides cannot count on dry fly fishing and often are nymphing to find fish.

Rick Hafele has over 100 observations loaded on our bug hatch app that is being used by guides up and down the River.  We are excited about a second year of reports.  His report from 2013 is available here.

DRA also helped ODFW with a trout survey this spring - their first trout study since 2001 - and that report will be out this fall. 

 What is Deschutes River Alliance doing ? 
We have been doing things that really require expertise on water quality monitoring (we had 14 people in the field for our water quality tests).  We have been limiting the hatch observations to very skilled anglers who know the difference between caddies species, for instance.  

Water temp data can be gleaned from the USGS sites at Madras and Moody.  We have helped PGE place and retrieve water temp devices for two years and have not been given the results.  

We did our own temp profile of the entire lower 100 miles this summer.  Also took pictures of the algae growth from the air.  We will have a bunch of info by late October.

 DRA is trying to use our money wisely so we do not print up color stuff much. Check the website for more info on what we are doing. 

We will be doing more scientific work in 2015 but we will likely be on to much more.  We are in strategic planning mode right now.  
 How can people help?
" Please visit our website and get informed about the issues as we have a ton of information about the Deschutes and what we have learned.  The Hafele Hatch Report is a good place to start.  Stay informed, sign up to receive email and alerts and if you love the Deschutes, please make a contribution of any size!"