Jamestown, Pipestem reservoirs remain low

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Oct. 14—Last weekend may have brought 2 inches of rain to the area but it didn't do much to increase the lake levels at Pipestem or Jamestown dams, according to James Dixon, manager at Pipestem Dam for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"It hit the ground and soaked away," he said. "... no real accumulation in the reservoirs."

Dixon said the Corps is continuing minimal releases from Pipestem Dam at 3 cubic feet per second. There are no releases from Jamestown Dam.

"We are where we should be going into winter," he said. "The only thing is we have been at that level all year."

The lower than normal water levels at many regional lakes could impact fish survival this winter, according to B.J. Kratz, fisheries biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Jamestown.

"Winter kill is a highly unpredictable event," he said. "Generally speaking, low water levels increase the chance of winter kill."

Factors that influence winter kill include ice thickness, snowcover on the ice, how late or early the lake froze and the amount of decaying vegetation under the ice, Kratz said.

"Lots of different things go into a winter kill," he said.

Kratz said the low water levels could concentrate fish into smaller areas of water producing good fishing opportunities through the winter. However, the low lake conditions could also reduce the quality of some of the lake ice, making being on the ice more hazardous.

Sunlight shining through the ice can reflect off the bottom of the lake, Kratz said. If the water is shallow enough, this can cause thawing of the underside of the ice cover on the lake.

"If the lake is lower, it can expose areas where the water had been deep enough to not cause problems other years," he said. "Those areas could be a problem this year and there could be new areas of unsafe ice conditions."

Kratz said the lower lake levels through the summer did not have any adverse effect on the fisheries in most lakes this summer.

"Overall, we were hot and less windy," he said. "We still did well, some summer kill in trout ponds but not many other problems."

Even with the lower water levels, water quality is as good as previous years in most lakes, Kratz said.

Water levels and quality for next year are unknown and will be determined by the winter weather, Dixon said. If water levels are higher during spring spawning next spring, it could be beneficial to some fish species.

"A lot of vegetation grew along the shores because those shores were out of the water all year," he said. "It should be good cover for rearing fish next year."

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