Shades of '07 ...
... in the Intermountain West and Northern Rockies ??
'07 was a brutal year for fishes and fisheries in this neck of the woods. It got hot in the early Spring and just got hotter and hotter throughout the summer. And it was dry from March on.
By early July '07 streamflows were typically 60% or less of the long term averages / norms / means / medians whichever term you want to use. And the water temps were way up.
The best example I know of personally of just how brutal '07 was is a small river in the Lemhi Mountains of Idaho. It was one of the finest small stream wild trout fisheries in the eastern part of the state. It offered a great variety of water and conditions from its alpine headwaters at about 7700' elevation to sage brush and cottonwood lined high desert riparian habitat at about 6000' over about 35 miles of freestone creek.
Rainbows, brook trout, bull trout, and a few cuttbows although there didn't seem to be any cutthroats at all in the crick - all wild, ranging in size from 5-6" brookies to 16-17" rainbows depending which section of the river you were on. In a long day, you could fish the Alpine stretch, the Meadow stretch, and the Desert stretch and hook up thirty, forty, fifty fat, healthy, feisty fishies.
This little river hadn't been stocked by Idaho Fish and Game for 24 years.
The summer of '07 decimated it. In '08 the one time I fished it all the smaller bull trout were gone, all the brookies were gone, and the rainbows were typically bland 10-12" rainbows rather than beautiful wild bows ranging from 6" to 17". Idaho Fish and Game did their thing to maintain something of a fishery planting triploid rainbows while the wild fishery recovered. I never went back.
I was looking at streamflows for much of Idaho and Western Montana this morning. Lots of cricks are running at less than 60% of the long term averages. And with virtually no snow left to run off, the streams and rivers are now being fed only by groundwater. Throw in the current heat wave and the longer term forecast for higher than average temps and lower than average precipitation over the next three months, and it is downright scary.
In '07, I stopped fishing from mid July through mid September. I don't know that I will do that this year, but it is weighing on my mind.
If I do continue to fish over this summer, it will be "playing tag". It is an approach that I encourage others to seriously consider over the next couple months. For more about it, follow the link.
The fish are always right.