Tourism officials along the Missouri River in South Dakota feel much the same way Mark Twain must have felt when he heard rumors he was about to die. “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Twain wrote to the newspaper editors who dispatched a reporter to check on his health.
Turn the clock forward to now, when media reports inaccurately paint a picture that fishing is dead for 2011 on the Missouri River and its reservoirs due to extensive flooding. The truth is far different. Those who say the situation is hell and high water don’t understand how great the fishing can be on high reservoirs… that is, if you are prepared.
“There is a perception with the flooding that there are no recreational opportunities available, but the fishing has been fantastic this year,” said Chuck Schlueter, communications manager for the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Division of Wildlife.
“Fishing has been unbelievable,” added guide Cary Storey of Thunderstik Lodge at Chamberlain on Lake Francis Case. “We’re excited about the quality fishery we have in our area.” It’s a fact, fishing has been excellent, particularly for walleyes. The sizes and numbers have been better than ever. But, as Schlueter pointed out, the white bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, catfish and panfish also have been biting in good numbers, too.
It’s an important story to deliver as anglers plan fall fishing trips.
And the worries that high water might cause a replay of 1997 – when huge quantities of forage fish were drained out of Lake Oahe – are unfounded, Schlueter said. In 1997, the thermocline at the dam had set up at the exact depth where fish were vulnerable to a rush of current – precisely the time the flood gates were opened.
This year, the flooding occurred earlier and in such a way that game fish and forage should have been able to adapt to the rising water. A true picture of what has occurred will come to light during the 2012 spring fishing census, he said.
Meanwhile, the anecdotal evidence is coming from numerous anglers who say they are catching limits of good fish ranging from big walleyes to many younger ones just over the 15-inch legal limit.
Mighty Mo at High Pool
For anglers who have fished the Missouri River in recent years, they know that low water is more the norm. Five years ago, water levels were so low that state fisheries workers were hustling to provide temporary extensions to boat ramps so people could reach the water. But this year, high water has occurred from Montana to Missouri after a heavy snow melt combined with heavier-than-average spring rains. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has used the system of dams and reservoirs to control water flow in order to limit the damage downstream.
“The Corps would call it a controlled flood,” Schlueter said. “We didn’t get the disastrous high water event, but we got a prolonged event.”
Some ramps have had to close, with some parks having to be abandoned due to the extraordinary high water. Unfortunately,