Outdoor Files: How fish are affected by new route around local dam

(NTV News)

Good morning. After about two months of waiting, I have good news and test results for anglers along the upper stretch of the Cedar River.

The Cedar River meanders its way through the heart of Nebraska. On the southwest edge of Spalding, the flow runs through a small dam and hydropower station. The structure is energy beneficial to people but it makes upstream movement of fish difficult. It means reduced recreational fishing and spawning above the dam.

Work is finished to address those issues in the construction of a fish bypass, a watery ladder. The concept is that fish enter the z shaped passage and swim a gentle elevation with built in resting pools, eventually going around the dam. Is it working? The answer to that question started in early May 2017.

Over several nights, biologists submerged hunks of waste cheese into hoop nets. The goal was to attract primarily channel catfish and the stink bait worked. Just over 600 fish were caught and 9 different species made up the total. The objective of targeting channel cats was met with a haul of 306. A transmission chip, about the size of a rice kernel, was planted in the undersides of all the fish species. After a quick test reading of the chip, the fish went back into the river downstream of the dam.

A month goes by. During this time, antenna technology at both ends of the fish ladder record when tagged fish enter or exit the bypass. Of the original 611 tagged fish, over half, 382, achieve total passage. Especially encouraging are the channel cat numbers. 221 of 306 tagged channel catfish navigate upstream around the dam. That’s a 72% success rate after just 4 weeks.

The Nebraska Environmental trust funded the majority of the construction with additional project sponsorship from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Village of Spalding and the Loup Basin R C & D.

Until next week, I’m Ralph Wall reminding you time outdoors is time well spent.

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