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A Variety of News Items

Conestoga, Finally

Our Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation project at Conestoga Reservoir west of Lincoln is finally getting off the ground!

Aquatic Habitat Project to Begin at Conestoga Reservoir

LINCOLN – The rehabilitation of the reservoir at Conestoga State Recreation Area is underway. The outlet structure will be modified in preparation for a project to improve aquatic habitat, water quality and angler access. Visitors can expect to encounter areas closed to public access near construction equipment and work areas.

The reservoir has experienced the degrading effects of years of sedimentation and nutrient accumulation. The combination of these has been partially responsible for the dense algae blooms in recent years. A priority of this project will be to re-establish some of the depth and lake bottom diversity and capture future sediment in the upper ends of the reservoir.

Additionally, the project will include shoreline protection with off-shore breakwaters and jetties that will allow anglers better access to deep water. The ultimate goal of the project is improved water quality. This, in turn, will provide a better environment for the establishment of aquatic vegetation and aquatic insects, which will result in a quality fishery.

The dewatering process will provide licensed anglers an opportunity to salvage the remaining fish under the following conditions: Stranded fish of all species may be salvaged for human consumption only, by any method except electricity, explosives, poisons, chemicals, other fish toxicants, firearms, and seines or nets other than legal baitfish seines, dip, or landing nets. Other legal methods include snagging, hand fishing, spearing and archery. Length limits will be rescinded for the area open to salvage during this period, but daily bag limits remain in effect. Because of concerns for the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species, salvaged fish cannot be sold or used for stocking purposes into either public or private water bodies. Salvage of fish under these liberalized regulations can begin immediately.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has contracted with T.J. Osborn Construction of Lincoln to modify the outlet structure.

The cost of the project is being provided by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Aquatic Habitat and Angler Access Fund, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, and Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration.

Conestoga is located near Denton in Lancaster County.

It has been so long since planning started for that project, I feel it is important to provide some background.  Go back and read this old blog post for a reminder of what will be accomplished there, Conestoga Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation Project.

If you read that old blog post, you will see that we are at least 2 years later than we thought we would be.  I know that some will say I am doing nothing but making excuses, but the truth is we also have a whole lot of bureaucratic hoops to jump through for every Aquatic Habitat Rehabilitation project we do.  That and a lot of precipitation in recent months have delayed the start of the Conestoga project again and again.  But, the pumps are running and the water level is dropping now!

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Take a note of how the reservoir looks now, when the project is completed it will be 100% better, water quality will be “night and day” different!

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Notice in the news release, liberalized fishing regulations are now in effect.  As the volume of water decreases, there will be opportunity to slop around in the mud and get some fish out of there.

Valentine Fish Hatchery Supply Pond

There was another news release last week on a much smaller, fisheries-related project:

Valentine Hatchery Supply Reservoir Will Be Drained for Repairs

LINCOLN – The reservoir that supplies water for the Valentine State Fish Hatchery, also known locally as the lower dam, will be drained this fall for repairs to the dam structure.

The complete draining of the reservoir is scheduled to begin the week of Oct. 19. Work should be completed within a few weeks and refilling will begin as soon as that work is done.

Some of the fish that were present in the reservoir were captured and moved upstream to the Valentine Mill Pond. Restocking of the hatchery supply reservoir, with largemouth bass, bluegill and possibly other species, will begin next spring.

Fish production at our Valentine State Fish Hatchery has been completed for the year, so now is the time to get some dam repairs done on the Minnechaduza Creek reservoir that sits right next to the hatchery.  That dam has been there a long, long time, has provided water for the hatchery for a long, long time, and it needs some maintenance.  No, the “lower dam” in Valentine is not a huge fishery, but my family and I have fished it a lot over the years and I know it is important to everyone who lives in Valentine.  Yes, the reservoir will be drained, but once again it will be some short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.  Do not worry, the “lower dam” will be back just as good as ever, soon.  Until then, slip upstream and fish the Mill Pond on the north edge of Valentine, we have caught some nice fish there over the years and a few fish were salvaged from the “lower dam” and taken there.

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Sampling Surprises

Our field fisheries biologists are very busy in the fall.  We have had pointy-headed biologists on waters around the state in the past few weeks sampling fish.  This is the fish population sampling we do annually to monitor the health of fish populations in our public water bodies.  The data they are collecting right now will also be used to produce the 2016 Fishing Forecast in the coming weeks.  That work is always interesting, the days can be long especially when the weather is bad, but on the other hand, it can be a lot of time on the water during one of the most pleasant parts of the year.  Sure, there are always some surprises in the nets, but sometimes the biggest surprises are running around on the shore.  Here is what one of our crews spotted at Merritt Reservoir this fall. . . .

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Photo by Zac Brashears. Thanks, Zac!

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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