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Trout Die as Big Wood River Dries Up
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Thursday, September 2, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

It was a day that shall live in infamy for Wood River Valley fly fishers.

John Finnell, a longtime member of the Hemingway Chapter of Trout Unlimited, had organized a fish rescue in the Big Wood River Tuesday. But he arrived on the scene to find that the river had dried up at the bottom of Bellevue.

“It’s a sad day,” he said. “All the fish for a large stretch of river below there have been lost.  Yesterday there were a couple of large holes with fish that we had hopes of rescuing.  This morning I went to check on the rescue possibilities.  The river just went down too fast.  The fish were killed.”

Finnell took a video of the what he found taken in the river bed near Glen Aspen Drive on the morning of Aug. 31 ( https://johnanddaralene.smugmug.com/Big-Wood-Fish-Kill-at-Bellevue-83121/n-2Pf78Z/). The video shows dozens of small trout lying still in what appears to be puddles. Some are actually fish out of water.

For the first time ever, we were looking at rescuing fish from the river, not a closed canal,” Finnell added. “From here forward all we can do is look to rescues as the canals are closed and possibly locations in the river itself.”

John Wright, the Diversion 45 water manager, Trout Unlimited and the Wood River Land Trust had come to an agreement to monitor the water flows, temperatures and dissolved oxygen content of the water to ensure a situation like this did not happen, said Trout Unlimited member Ed Northen.

“The lack of water to reach the lower portion of the Big Wood River in Bellevue was  unexpected and we do not know why this happened,” he added.

Authorities are looking into allegations that a water user to the north illegally diverted water out of the river, which resulted in the lower water.


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