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Fish, wildlife likely OK despite high waters

May 11, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH, News Outdoors Writer
Although high waters may have wreaked havoc in the Adirondacks for the past few weeks, many fish and wildlife likely have been able to adjust to the conditions and have likely come away in good shape.

State Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries biologist Rich Preall said fish like yellow perch, pike and walleye will likely have done pretty well this spring because of the high waters. Pike and yellow perch spawn in the spring and like warm, shallow waters to do so. Because high waters rose over the banks of many waterbodies, there should have been an abundance of habitat for the spawning fish. Walleye, on the other hand, were protected from poachers during their spawning runs in April because of the high waters, he said.

“Overall, flooding benefits more fish than it hurts,” Preall said. “The fish are used to that and they get a lot more feed that’s in the river. They are amazingly resilient, dodging what you think is high water. They just hunker down and they get right through it.”

Brook trout probably did OK also, Preall said. Brook trout spawn in the fall, with the young emerging in March.

“The little brookies and stuff are in the little tribs,” Preall said. “They were high, but they are not outlandishly high. I don’t think it will be a bad year, where there will be a wipeout of brook trout, natural reproduction.”

Most of the major flooding was in rivers, where brook trout are less likely to be found. In general, fish can adapt to the high water levels, even those that are stocked.

“Everyone thinks they get blown out or they are gone from the system,” Preall said about stocked fish. “That’s generally not the case. They might disperse a little further, but they stay within a half mile of where they were stocked.”

Most stocked brook trout should be OK in ponds because they were dropped into the waters in the fall, Preall said. Other places like the West Branch of the AuSable, East Branch of the AuSable, Saranac River, Boquet River did have stocking delayed, though.

“The reports I’m getting from anglers is the pond fishing has been excellent this spring,” Preall said. “That hasn’t bothered them at all.”

Frogs and other small amphibians that reproduce in temporary pools may have done well this year, too.

“There’s lots of vernal pools out there,” Preall said. “That’s where the eggs develop and they are fairly sheltered from predators. It should be a bonus year for producing frogs.”

That means mosquitoes, which breed in pools of water, should be out in droves this year, too.

Some fish that could be negatively affected are smelt, which had their spawning run in the midst of the major flooding in April. Normally, they run up the Bog River from Big Tupper in April, but this year there aren’t any reports of that. The strong currents may have forced them to spawn in the lake, Preall said.

Waterfowl likely did OK in the flood, in part because many of them like to feed in shallow warm areas. Places like the Saranac River between Saranac Lake and Bloomingdale should now have even more habitat for waterfowl.

“Ducks are positively impacted by the flood waters,” DEC biologist John O’Connor said. “The waters are spread out all over the place. It gives the ducks a lot more places to go for feeding. They really like that water that is between 6 inches and 18 inches deep for dabbling and to get feed, bug and stuff that is down in the grass.”

Beavers, on the other hand, may have ventured into new territories this spring after being forced out of their homes. Mink and muskrats faced similar situations.

In general, the habitat along waterways has been altered more than usual this spring. Evidence of that are the numerous bogs that have been seen floating around areas like Oseetah Lake and Lake Flower in Saranac Lake.

“A lot of birds will build their nests in there and for the most part, they’ll detach and float around someplace else and bang up against the shore someplace else and get caught as the water recedes,” O’Connor said. “It may change the shape of the shoreline in some of these areas.”

But, in general, a lot of the fish and wildlife should come out of this spring just fine.

“All the wildlife is able to adjust to it pretty well,” O’Connor said.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department
High waters have altered shorelines throughout the Adirondacks. In this April 30 photo, members of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department drag a floating bog across one of Lake Flower’s overflow ponds.



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