Flood Advisory – Where do the fish go?
The next few days Western, PA is under a flood advisory. If you have a the weather channel app on your iPhone like me, you have been reminded all day yesterday about he flood warning.
This brings up the topic of where do the fish go when it floods?
Many years ago I remember this particular trip when visiting my grandparents in East Brady (they had camp right along the Allegheny River) when we had a wash out weekend. Recreational boating and fishing was non existent thanks to harsh rains all week. The river was up close to flood stage and the waters were milky brown with debris. A small creek flow called Sugar Creek flows right past our camp into the Allegheny pictured below:
I remember being disappointed that mother nature came in the way of a planned fishing outing with my Pap. To release some frustration I was going to practice my casting in the muddy waters under the bridge by camp. I remember my uncle or pap saying I wouldn’t catch anything in that muddy water but being a kid I didn’t give a shit… I just wanted to keep busy. My first cast had dark green gitzit with heavy jig head I landed a fish which was a nice size small mouth bass. Surprised my Uncle that I caught something he recommended me going with Live bait instead. I changed my baits to night crawlers with a heavy split shot. For a few hours I was busy catching nice size small mouths in the flooded Sugar creek.
So whats my point?
Sugar Creek was a small feeder stream into the Allegheny River. The small mouths (and other game fish) move around to areas they don’t normally feed because they can. Floods can produce a feeding frenzy for fish and also stress for some. Fish will move to areas to feed and others will find cover behind rocks, structure such has tree brush pile, bridge pilling, ect. The fish will also resort to Thalweg in a river which will have the least amount of current.
Studies with great data findings show that fish don’t move from home to much during a flood. A great article about fish survival after flood is posted here: http://www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishing/Survival-After-the-Floods/. Flooding can also bring a change in habitat which can cause stress on the environment.
Keep in mind this all depends on the species of fish that we are talking about. Trout are more sensitive fish and the mortality rate could be higher in some species.
Flooding causes environment change below the surface but fish would scatter far. They may venture into new areas to feed but will resort back to “home” as studies show.