Fly Fishing in a Drought

Fish will feel the stress caused by low flows, higher water temperatures and competition for space and food.  Low water conditions in spring and fall can cause spawning failures and increased predation on young fish.   Also, fish will "group up" to take advantage of pools where the water is deeper and cooler -- making them more vulnerable to anglers and predators.  If conditions worsen, fish are lost to stress from the higher water temperature, lower oxygen levels, and reduced resistance to disease.  These threats can impact adult trout numbers in future years.

To help preserve a threatened fishery anglers can:

  • Fish in the cool morning hours -- low water flow and rising temperatures combine to stress fish.
  • Try another location, if water is low at a favorite fishing spot.
  • Be alert for fishing closures on streams hardest hit by drought.
  • Work with water users to try to conserve flow.
  • Report fish kills to the local Department of Fish & Game.

Anglers who practice catch-and-release fishing can minimize the stress they place on fish:

  • Use barbless hooks.
  • Land fish quickly once they are hooked.
  • Keep fish in the water as much as possible while handling them.
  • Limit the amount of time fish are handled.
  • Wet hands before attempting to remove the hook.
  • Handle fish gently.
  • Take care not to touch a fish's gills.

On streams experiencing extreme drought conditions and high water temperatures anglers may want to avoid catch and release fishing as it is difficult for trout to recover under these conditions.

Also consider the opportunities offered by alpine lakes. These waters are more stable with temps and are likely less affected by water flow.

Tight Lines,

Rick