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WV Wildlife: Flood impacts on our fish

While raging floodwaters look intimidating, fish--especially larger fish--are very resilient and can survive most high-water events. They can get stuck in unusual spots, though, which can make them an easy prey item for other animals after the water recedes.(WCHS/WVAH)

It's been nearly a year.

A year since our state was devastated by flooding that rarely happens in a lifetime.

Twenty-three people lost their lives that terrible June evening, and some communities were changed forever.

Even the land was altered by this giant rush of water. WV DNR fisheries biologist, Mark Scott, sees evidence of this still to this day.

"Anglers say--well, you put rocks there and I can't get my boat in there. We didn't put any rocks there. It's just the Good Lord moved them with the flow. So, a flow like that is going to move a lot of rocks--it's just part of nature", said Scott.

Even our wildlife was most likely impacted by the worst that nature had to offer last June.

"June is a key month for smallmouth spawning. The spawning is usually in May, but studies have shown that flows--outside of certain parameters, typically flood flows--if they reach a certain volume, will wipe out the spawn for the entire year", said Scott.

That's an issue--especially if it happens multiple years in a row, but Scott doesn't think that happened here. If it did, it won't be noticeable for a while.

"Two to three years down the road, you'll see an impact. If you just have the one year of bad spawn, it's typically not an issue because you've got enough coming in front of that and behind that year class. You don't see that missing year class".

These fish are pretty resilient, though. High water events are simply part of their life-cycle.

"Floods are just a part of nature. It's been happening since the dawn of time, so if they were hard on fish--there wouldn't be any fish left. They head straight out for the middle in the deep water and hide under rocks, so they know what to do. It's their genetics", said Scott.

Scott says since the landscape has changed after the floods, use caution if you're fishing--even a year after.

"You can get in trouble really quick. You definitely need to be careful--and we always encourage people to wear your pfd's." (personal flotation device)

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