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Television news accounts last month were full of praise for an experimental discharge at Glen Canyon Dam, otherwise known as Lee’s Ferry. For seven days, water was discharged at 45,000 cubic feet per second in an attempt to rehabilitate the river’s beaches and create backwater habitat (normal flows range from 8,000 to 18,000 cfs). The news reports all pointed out how the rearrangement of sediment would greatly benefit the environment. At this writing, the “flood” does indeed seemed to have helped the fishing. At press time in late April, Terry Gunn of Lee’s Ferry Anglers (*) said the Colorado was back to normal and was fishing better than anytime in recent memory. He says he recently guided a client who caught over 100 trout, including a large number of fish over 16 inches long. Two other anglers I talked to reported similar feeding frenzy results.
Encouragingly, Gunn says midge hatches are heavy, fry are present all over the river, sediment has been rearranged to create new beaches and the trout do not appear to have any significant losses. There was some loss of scud populations, but according to Gunn, they may recover. Gunn emphasized this is all preliminary and he believes the flooding will not have any long-term beneficial effects. In fact, the “flood” could eventually have the opposite effect. After all, unstable water flows were one of the big reasons why this fishery went downhill a decade ago.
During the heavy discharge, the Colorado River ran past high canyon walls like foaming chocolate milk, according to eye witnesses. The as-yet-undetected problems this might have created include the destruction of algae, vital to maintaining scud and insect populations; overall reduction of trout habitat; stress on the trout from having to locate new holding spots; predation of smaller fish; loss of trout due to displacement; and scouring of the river bottom.
The fallout from the “flood” at Lee’s Ferry bears watching. Here at The Angling Report, we will keep readers informed on any developments. In the meantime, if you want up-to-the minute information call Lee’s Ferry Anglers. Lee’s Ferry Anglers is one of The Angling Report’s Hotline shops and should give you the facts, not blow smoke.