The Flood of 2017 has already inflicted great damage in the Missouri Ozarks.
But the Missouri Department of Conservation doubts that the fish will be a victim.
Though crappies and bass were in the process of spawning at hard-hit reservoirs such as Table Rock, Truman, Lake of the Ozarks, Norfork and Bull Shoals, fisheries officials doubt that rapid rise in water levels will have a disastrous effect on fish populations.
“The fish are well-adapted to flooding,” said Brian Canaday, chief of fisheries for the Department of Conservation. “We’ve had these spring floods before, and they usually result in a strong year-class of fish such as bass and crappies.
“There is just so much more cover for the fry to hide in that the high water actually helps.”
Canday’s heart goes out to all of the Ozarks residents who have lost homes and businesses to the record flooding, which hit after heavy rain April 28-30.
The Department of Conservation has taken one of the leading roles in water rescues and dealing with the aftermath of the flooding.
But the fish are not an emergency situation, Canaday said.
“Say the fish had imitated spawning before all this high water hit,” he said. “With all of the new and sometimes muddy water on top of those areas, those nests will fail.
“But we’ve found that fish will try to spawn multiple times in a year.”
For the fish that follow the water line into newly flooded areas before spawning, there is a danger of having the water pulled out from under their nests and being left high and dry during releases. But Canaday doubts that will even be much of a problem this year.
“There is such a great volume of water from these floods, we’re not going to see a rapid drop in water levels,” Canaday said. “I think the releases are going to be more gradual, and that’s good for the fish.”
The fishing may temporarily suffer. Many boat ramps are closed on the flooded reservoirs. And with heavy releases from Table Rock Lake entering Lake Taneycomo, strong current has kept fishermen off Taneycomo.
The same is true for famous float streams such as the Current, the James, the Niangua, the Big Piney and others.
But it will get better with time. And fishing could actually benefit.
If past floods are any example, trout will gorge on shad that are washed through Table Rock Dam into Taneycomo. And bass will move shallow to feed on bugs and worms in reservoirs such as Table Rock.
Photo of the flooded Current River by the Missouri Department of Conservation.