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Reservoir Updates

I have a couple, three news items about Nebraska reservoirs.  None of them are long but I need to get this information out. . . .

Conestoga Reservoir

Just a quick heads-up for anglers and boaters who might want to use Conestoga Reservoir this spring.  That reservoir is found west of  Lincoln, between the towns of Denton and Emerald, and there has been some ice damage to the boat ramp.

There will be at least one section of ramp that needs to be replaced, and I am assuming that the ramp may be closed for a short time while that is accomplished.  “Stay tuned” for more information.

Thanks Jay for the photos.

Red Willow Reservoir

Many of you probably know that water levels at Red Willow have been at minimum pool for the past couple of years.  A couple of years ago there were some “cracks” found in the grass on the backside of the dam at Red Willow, and well, as you can imagine, cracks in dams make a lot of people nervous.  The water level at Red Willow was dropped to the minimum pool level at that time and has remained there while repairs were made.  That work is pretty much done now, but the water level is still at minimum pool and may remain there depending on precipitation amounts and how much water they are allowed to store in that reservoir this year.

Of course having a minimal amount of water in Red Willow has impacted the fish populations and fishing.  Think of it this way–how many minnows can you keep alive in 10 gallons of water and then how many can you keep alive in 2 gallons of water?  Low water levels result in less space, less habitat available for fish and as a result fish populations have to adjust, downward.  The good news is that there still has been enough water in Red Willow to keep fish alive, so the fishery has not been lost, and in fact has continued to produce some good fishing (I heard some good ice-fishing reports from this past winter).

There can also be some benefits from low water levels in reservoirs.  Take a look at these photos and notice all the smartweed, cockleburrs, willows, cottonwoods and other “weeds” that have grown on the exposed bottom substrates.  When all that terrestrial vegetation eventually re-floods it will provide excellent habitat for several species of fish and you better believe the Red Willow fishery will benefit from that.  Also take note of some fish attractors, brushpiles, and rock reefs that have been added while water levels are low.  Again, you can be sure the fish will use those attractors when the water comes back and the rock reefs should provide some shoreline protection and water quality benefits as well.

Thanks North Platte fish guys for the photos.

Burchard Reservoir

For the sake of those who may not know, the outlet structure at Burchard Reservoir has had a leak in it for years.  We have known for a long time that was eventually going to have to be repaired and eventually it got bad enough that it had to be repaired ASAP.  Burchard has an excellent watershed, which has resulted in excellent water quality, excellent habitat conditions and excellent fishing for years; it is one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the entire state.  So, we absolutely did not want to drain all the water from Burchard; to accomplish the work that was needed, the water was dropped about 10 feet.  The work that was done on Burchard started last spring/summer and the lake has been closed to fishing and access during that time.

Here is a news release that ran a month ago letting everyone know exactly where the Burchard Lake project stands at this time:

Burchard WMA Remains Closed as Work Continues

March 6, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. – Public access to the Burchard Wildlife Management Area remains closed while an aquatic rehabilitation project on the 150-acre reservoir nears completion, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Work completed on the area includes a new outlet structure, reconfigured boat launch area with wave protection, several new angler access pads, handicap-accessible fishing pier, offshore breakwaters to protect and repair shorelines, and a sediment dike on the north arm. In addition, the aquatic habitat was enhanced by near-shore deepening near breakwaters, creation of underwater rock shoals and placement of cedar tree piles in the reservoir basin.

The project was ahead of schedule because of last year’s dry summer. The reservoir was drawn down 11 feet to facilitate construction while protecting the quality fishery. It remains low due to drought conditions.

Final work on the outlet structure is scheduled for this month. Water levels must rise to complete construction of a floating dock – the final piece of the project. Spring precipitation and inflows will influence the future opening date.

I know that is “old” news, but I want to mention it as a reminder and also to say that I have no updates, nothing has changed.  We are still waiting on water levels to come back up.  I know that is a disappointment because we all want to fish Burchard again, soon!  Be patient, it is coming.  In the meantime I can tell you that our fisheries field crews have done some sampling on Burchard and the fish populations are doing just fine, the fishing will be as good as ever as soon as we can get back on the reservoir.

While the water was down at Burchard, we had the perfect opportunity to install a brand-new boat ramp, new docks, do some shoreline protection and add some angler access and aquatic habitat enhancements.  Until we can get back on the water at Burchard, let me tease you with some pictures of those enhancements.

New breakwater protecting new boat ramp in background. Also will provide handicap-accessible shore-fishing access.
Look down the new double-wide boat ramp with new boat dock in between the two lanes.
View northwest from the south end of the dam.

Thanks Tony for those photos.

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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