Effects of the Drought? - The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2017, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
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Effects of the Drought?

I thought I would take the opportunity to look at my stats through the first six months of the year. Since last yearís drought, Iíve wondered what the effect of it was. With my fishing completed for the first half of the year, I think itís a good time to see if there are any conclusions to be had.


First, I did a lot more fishing through the first half of the year than I have in other years. I knew I was facing an extended period of not being able to fish, so I tried to get in as much fishing as possible.


I fished 46 times through the first six months of the year. Though I fished a lot more, my catch rate has been much lower this year compared to the same period in other years. I attribute that to more early season fishing trips than usual, but feel there could be other factors involved. My stream selection, hooking proficiency, weather, and stream conditions are important factors.


In my 46 trips through June, Iíve caught 1,611 trout for an average of 35.0 per day.
- 1,327 (82.4%) of my trout were browns, 251 (15.6%) were brooks, and just 33 (2.0%) were rainbows.
-1,442 (89.5%) hit spinners, 166 (10.3%) hit plugs, and 3 (0.2%) hit spoons.
In 2016, I fished 27 times and caught 1,164 trout for an average of 43.1 per day.
-1,049 (90.5%) were browns, 79 (6.8%) were brooks, 33 (2.8%) were rainbows, and 3 (.3%) were golden rainbows.
  • -Spinners accounted for 1,1,06 (95.0%) trout, plugs for 47 (4.0%), and spoons for 11 (1%).

Attached is a comparison that shows trout caught by stream type and size distribution for the years 2011-2015 compared to this year and to 2016. It covers trout caught in the first half of the year only.


From the charts, you can see there is a marked decrease in the percentage of Less than 7Ē trout and 7 to 9.99Ē trout between 2011-2015 to 2016 and 2017 and a sharp increase in the percentage of 10-14.99Ē inch trout and the larger size distributions.



The biggest difference is the very low number of Less than 7Ē trout caught in both the limestone and the freestone streams in 2017.


I believe the data shows that the drought last year had a definite effect on the trout populations. I would expect the effect to be more drastic in the freestone streams, but my data shows a larger than expected effect on the limestoners as well. I believe that last yearís extreme water conditions took a toll on all trout, however the larger trout are more able to claim the prime holding spots, deeper pools, spring seeps, etc. This exposes the smaller trout in the less prime spots to thermal factors, as well as increased predation. The fat trout I caught in some streams also leads me to believe that a number of the smaller trout were forced into sharing the prime spots with the larger trout, and as a result many were eaten by the larger trout.


I would be interested to see what other anglersí conclusions are with half of the season gone. I would be interested to see if othersí stats agree or disagree with mine, especially those who fish freestone streams more than I do.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Size Distribution Comparison Six Months.jpg (710.1 KB, 9 views)

Last edited by Trout Traveler; 06-30-2017 at 06:39 PM.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-02-2017, 06:11 PM Thread Starter
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I'm particularly interested to see if others have similar observations for both limestone and freestone streams.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-02-2017, 07:22 PM
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I'd like to give my observations along with a chart but PhotoBucket is not working for me right now.

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-02-2017, 08:00 PM Thread Starter
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If you take a picture of the chart and upload the file in the Manage Attachments section, you can bypass Photobucket.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-04-2017, 05:27 PM
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Trying to bring in a photo from Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/156503.../shares/m463Q0

...didn't work. Flickr doesn't explain things too well. So what's new...

I can be contacted at [email protected].

Last edited by FrankTroutAngler; 07-04-2017 at 05:31 PM.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-04-2017, 06:46 PM
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I'm not going to attempt to share statistics, but I fished the ANF region recently and all age classes of fish were present, even in small streams. Trout even too small to get hooked were seen in pursuit of my offerings. I don't travel east into the NC region but its business as usual all over the western half of the state.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-06-2017, 11:27 AM Thread Starter
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I'd like to know if the members of this forum agree with the following conclusions I made from my first half of the year fishing:

1.) Small trout were adversely affected by the drought last year. I caught a lot fewer sub-legal trout as well as trout between 7 and 10 inches. Does this match your results?

2.) The drought affected limestone streams as well as freestoners, even though limestone streams are generally more drought resistant.

3.) A lot of smaller trout were forced by the drought to share some of the holding spots occupied by big trout and were eaten by them. I caught a lot of fat 15 inch and larger trout, which I wouldn't expect coming out of a drought year.

I'm particularly interested in the results and opinions of those who fish a lot as well as those who fish both limestone and freestone streams.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-07-2017, 03:00 PM
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I’m not sure that I have any conclusions about the effect the drought of 2016 had on trout populations this year, but I have a few observations.

As far as small trout go, the percentage of them in my overall catch is similar to past years, as indicated by the statistics below, but part of that could be that I’ve fished more places this year where I catch small trout. Therefore, I can’t conclude that small trout took a bigger hit from the drought than larger trout.

Percentage of trout caught under 7-inches for the first six months of each of the following years:

2017: 36.8%
2016: 37.5%
2015: 33.1%
2014: 38.8%
2013: 37.9%
2012: 29.7%
2011: 35.9%

I agree that a large pool with depth and cover probably favors large trout during drought, but big trout cover could vanish completely in many pools as the water recedes from the tree roots, banks and large rocks. Small trout would be able to find cover easier in this situation because they can hide in smaller places. Some smaller pools would have no big trout cover. A 5-inch trout can hide a lot easier in skinny water than a 12-inch trout. Therefore, I can’t conclude that low water favors large trout overall. I believe each pool in a stream would favor different sizes of trout and that a stream would have a mixture of these kinds of pools.

With that said, if you look at the attached chart, my trout per hour average of 12.52 is my lowest in the seven years on the chart, so my observation is that overall trout populations are probably down. My guess is that when trout are congregated in pools, whether the pools favor small or large trout, the trout overall are taking a hit. You’ll also see that my best day this year through six months is only 155 trout. I’ve not had a day over 200 trout yet. That’s a significant indicator to me that trout populations are down considerably. Note too that I am retired this year so most of my fishing has been during the week when I’m less likely to run into other anglers. I hate to think what my trout per hour average would be if I were still fishing mostly on weekends.

One stocked freestone stream that I fish regularly in south-central PA also has some wild brown trout and it is full of wild brown trout yearlings this year. More than I’ve ever seen before. This stream not only went practically dry last summer and autumn, but I’m sure the water temperature got well up into the 80’s at times. I noticed that last fall there were virtually no stocked trout remaining when there are usually several in every pool. My guess is that they perished from the heat. With fewer mouths to feed, maybe more YOY wild brown trout survived last year and thus the strong crop of yearlings this year. Of course, there could have just been an unusually good hatch in about February 2016 yielding a high population of small wild browns now.

From several trips to north-central PA I do believe that at least some small streams took a major hit from the drought. I sampled three small streams. One had a trout here and there in say the lower mile, then there were no trout farther upstream. None. Another Class A stream had a couple trout in the first few pools where it dumps into a larger stream, then nothing for about three-fourths of a mile until I came to a very large pool where I caught one trout. The third small stream typically had a small trout in each pool. I fished it for about a mile and a half and it was consistent, though slow. In the past all three of these streams have yielded days of around 200 trout or more to me. Of course, I only tried each of them once, the first two of which were at daybreak so I was without a doubt the first angler there that day.

In a large freestone stream in NC PA that has long stretches of riffles I noticed that the riffles were pretty much devoid of trout. Most of the trout I caught were in or near the pools. I would suspect the trout haven’t moved back to the riffles because most of the insect life probably died when the streambed went dry. There’s probably not a lot to eat there now.

One thing I have noticed this year is that it is common to have pretty good fishing for a couple hours followed by extremely slow fishing, and if I stay, followed by good fishing again. I can’t explain this, though I suspect in many places it has to do with the trout seeing too much metal.

On the bright side, through the end of June I made six trips to NC PA and still caught lots of trout: 4/29: 59 trout (6.00 hours), 5/26: 125 trout (7.75 hours), 5/30: 136 trout (7.50 hours), 6/9: 104 trout (8.00 hours), 6/13: 135 trout (7.50 hours), and 6/29: 101 trout (9.00 hours). Most of these trout were caught in the larger streams of the area. Certainly there are still lots of trout around though without looking at my stats from past years I’m sure that my trout per hour averages on these days were lower than normal for NC PA.

I don’t really have any noteworthy observations about trout populations on limestone streams in central and SC PA, and I’ve fished many of them many times already this year. If I were pushed for an observation, I would have to say that there are still lots of trout but probably just not as many as years past. This is probably due to lower water last year, but it could just be that there was a poor spawn and recruitment over the winter and spring of 2015/2016. I will say that one small limestoner that I fish seems to have a trout population of maybe about one-fourth to one-half of what it was in years past. This stream got unusually low last summer and autumn.

I can’t make any intelligent observations about big trout (16-inches–plus) since my sample size is relatively small.

In hindsight I wish I would have taken a drive to NC PA last autumn before the rains came to see how dry the streams were.

- Frank Nale -
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Last edited by FrankTroutAngler; 05-16-2018 at 08:22 AM.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-07-2017, 03:39 PM Thread Starter
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I see the file. It's the same one you had attached previously.

Last edited by Trout Traveler; 07-07-2017 at 03:46 PM.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-07-2017, 07:43 PM
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I edited my post above to give my observations.

I can be contacted at [email protected].
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