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December 15, 2020
People have been asking “What is up with the Saluda?” I presume they mean the consistently high water levels and the poor water clarity. A October 2, 2020 press release from Dominion Energy stated: “Dominion Energy has confirmed its Lake Murray water levels for the remainder of 2020. The company plans to maintain the lake close to its current 356-foot level through the peak of hurricane season in mid-October, then gradually lower the lake to a target elevation of 354 feet by the end of the year. Dominion Energy began lowering the lake on Sept. 15 in anticipation of heavy rainfall and higher-than-normal waterflow as the remnants of Hurricane Sally impacted South Carolina. The drawdown complied with guidance from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. “We took these precautionary measures to ensure operational preparedness for unusually high rains that were in the forecast,” Dominion Energy South Carolina vice president of Power Generation Jim Landreth said. ‘Fortunately, rainfall amounts were not excessive.’” From this link, you can view the lake levels in light of the full pool level of 360 feet msl. http://murray.uslakes.info/Level/
As to water clarity, who knows? Construction upstream from prime fishing areas is partially to blame but warmer weather and longer growing seasons (think more fertilizer running into Lake Murray and then the Saluda) may also be at play.
Another issue is low dissolved oxygen levels. Temperature levels are also important but that is for another day. Dissolved oxygen levels below 4 parts per million are stressful on trout. Based on USGS charts for USGS 02168504 SALUDA RIVER BELOW LK MURRAY DAM NR COLUMBIA, SC, starting late on September 15, 2020, until early on September 18, 2020, discharge was over 15,000 cubic feet per second and correspondingly dissolved oxygen levels dropped to almost 0 parts per million. Dissolved oxygen levels remained below 4 parts per million from late Sep. 15, 2020, (the same date referred to in the Dominion Energy press release above) until midday early on September 21, 2020. Dissolved oxygen levels rose to above 6 parts per million later on September 21, 2020 and fluctuated between 4 ppm and 7 ppm for the rest of the month. If you read on the internet, you will find that some measurements are in ppm (parts per million) and some are in mg/l (milligrams per liter). 1 ppm is roughly equivalent to 1 mg/l, so you get the picture. Now what does that mean for trout?
Salmonid mortality begins to occur when dissolved oxygen concentrations are below 3 mg/L for periods longer than 3.5 days (US EPA 1986). A summary of various field study results by WDOE (2002) reports that significant mortality occurs in natural waters when dissolved oxygen concentrations fluctuate the range of 2.5 - 3 mg/L. Long-term (20 - 30 days) constant exposure to mean dissolved oxygen concentrations below 3 - 3.3 mg/L is likely to result in 50% mortality of juvenile salmonids (WDOE, 2002). According to a short-term (1-4 hours) exposure study by Burdick et al. (1954, as cited by WDOE, 2002), in warm water (20 - 21 C) salmonids may require daily minimum oxygen levels to remain above 2.6 mg/L to avoid significant (50%) mortality. From these and other types of studies, WDOE (2002) concluded that juvenile salmonid mortality can be avoided if daily minimum dissolved oxygen concentration remain above 3.9 mg/L, and the monthly or weekly average of minimum concentrations remains above 4.6 mg/L.
Carter. K. “The Effects of Dissolved Oxygen on Steelhead Trout, Coho Salmon, and Chinook Salmon Biology and Function by Life Stage” August 2005. https://www.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/07354626738.pdf
One of the most critical factors in determining trout survival is the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. For many species of salmonids, exposure to low levels of dissolved oxygen (less than approximately 5.0 - 6.0 mg.L-1) can result in mortality (Doudoroff and Shumway 1970, in Weithman and Haas 1984).
July 21, 2020
Water staying around 850 cfs and water clarity has improved. Thunderstorms are popping up in the afternoon and evening, so be careful. Striper activity is picking up in the Saluda. Effective flies are a size 4 purple and white clouser, a size 4 or 6 blue and white clouser, a white circus peanut, a light olive circus peanut, a black circus peanut and a black articulated beastmaster. July 15, 2020
Took two friends fishing for stripers. The water was still around 850 cfs and decent clarity. Picked up several small stripers on modified olive slumpbuster on salt water hook, size 6 Gervais Gray and black beastmaster. One nice 6 pounder (see picture) was caught on modified black slumpbuster tied on salt water hook. The slumpbuster is a great fly, but trout hooks don't stand up to striper fishing.
July 14, 2020
Saluda dropped overnight to around 800 cfs. Water clarity is pretty good, but there is a lot of moss and algae on the rocks, so now is not a bad time for studded felt soles to cut through the vegetation. Took a friend fishing, and he used a spey rod for the first time. After about 20 minutes he was doing pretty well with my TFO 13'0" 7/8 Deer Creek Spey rod. While there were still some less than picture perfect casts, he was able to do some perry poke casts of 40-50 feet. He picked up 4 small stripers and a nice 20 incher and a small shellcracker (go figure). A size 6 purple and white clouser accounted for a couple, as did a small black articulated slumpbuster and a small black articulated beastmaster.