Augusta Canal could support fishery for trout

  • Follow Metro

Even after 168 years, the Augusta Canal is still creating new opportunities for the city it was built to serve.

Trout were once stocked in the Savannah River by Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, as shown here, in a 1972 photo taken near downtown Augusta's Fifth Street Bridge. New studies are under way to gauge the feasbility of creating a trout fishery in the Augusta Canal.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Trout were once stocked in the Savannah River by Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, as shown here, in a 1972 photo taken near downtown Augusta's Fifth Street Bridge. New studies are under way to gauge the feasbility of creating a trout fishery in the Augusta Canal.

Just last week, as word leaked out that ancient textile mills along its banks might become a new university campus, science teacher Carl Hammond-Beyer was sharing some canal news of a different kind.

The Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School educator and his students have been quietly evaluating the waterway to determine if it could support a recreational fishery for trout.

“Yes, it’s possible,” he told members of the CSRA Fly Fishers group. “The take-home message here is that it’s time to think about it.”

Hammond-Beyer and his students conducted a year-long water quality study to measure temperature, oxygen levels, pH and food availability.

The conclusions were encouraging, he said, with adequate oxygen, suitable pH and plenty of food.

The only potentially limiting factor was water temperature.

“We’re right on the edge of survivability,” he said. “Only in mid-July to August does it get close to being too hot.”

The Savannah River that feeds the canal is drawn from deep below the surface of Thurmond Lake, where water is colder. By the time it flows downstream, and into the canal, it becomes warmer – but not necessarily too warm.

Even at its hottest point last year, average water temperatures were just a few degrees above those found in the Saluda River in South Carolina, which has been proven to not only support stocked trout, but has evolved into a trophy stream due to fish that survive from year to year.

Oxygen levels in both the river and the canal have improved dramatically in the past decade, due in part to vented turbines installed at Thurmond Dam to improve water quality downstream.

In the canal, all oxygen measurements were above 7 parts per million — well above the critical limit of 5 parts per million, he said, and pH levels were within an acceptable range as well.

Trout have their preferred foods, Hammond-Beyer learned, and the canal is a veritable smorgasbord.

A bug census found a succulant array of midges, whirlygigs, shiners, crayfish, dragonfly nymphs and other preferred trout snacks.

During one trip along the canal, the researchers observed the estimated hatch of 156,000 blue-winged olives — in a single day.

“So on the canal, we have this great productivity, but with no one utilizing the resource,” he said.

Creating a canal trout fishery could become a huge economic draw, but for now, it is just an idea.

“We have just a year of data,” he said, “but it’s something to wrestle with.”

The next step, he told the anglers group, will likely be tests in which a small number of trout would be kept in the canal within a submerged cage or enclosure to observe their behavior and mortality.

Comments (15) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
86790
Points
Riverman1 03/31/13 - 06:44 am
2
0
Previous Attempt

The previous experiment failed when thousands of trout were released in the river below the dam. I don't see how the canal water differs from the river. Only one guy claimed he caught one, but that was questionable, heh. Having said all that, the vented turbines that have been online for about 10 years may provide enough oxygen content in the river. The key could be having continuous adequate outflow from the dam.

Riverman1
86790
Points
Riverman1 03/31/13 - 06:42 am
3
0
1997

Georgia stocked 10,000 rainbow trout in the Savannah River in March of 1997. The Trout Association added 3,500 brown trout the next month. None of the tagged fish were ever caught.

smartasugarsugar
139
Points
smartasugarsugar 03/31/13 - 07:09 am
3
0
where did they go?

13500 fish that just disappeared? if the canal is showing signs of improvement that is good news. with the construction going on and clearing maybe we can hope for a beautiful waterway someday. let the fish do their thing without too much intervention and it might make for a wonderful short boat ride.

itsanotherday1
45283
Points
itsanotherday1 03/31/13 - 08:52 am
2
0
Continuous outflow..

They've had that for 60 years.

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 03/31/13 - 09:21 am
3
1
No, To The Fish For The Canal!

LEAVE THURMOND LAKE(CLARKS HILL) OUT OF THIS! Leave our water right where it is!!

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 03/31/13 - 09:26 am
2
0
Corps of Engineers.......

What is going on with the clearing of timber around Raysville-Little River on the lake? Where is the money going from the timber? Several local campgrounds have been taken over by private companies, Raysville Campground being one of them. So, what's going on?

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 03/31/13 - 09:58 am
2
0
river water quality has changed since the 1997 trout experiment

the savannah river's oxygen level used to fall as low as 1.8 parts per million in hot months. From 2000-2006 the corps spent $70 milllion to replace the dam's obsolete 1952 turbines with modern oxygen vented turbines. The result was that water released into the river had more than double, sometimes almost triple, the amount of dissolved oxgen. Last year (2012) an oxygen 'bubbler' to increase oxygen levels in the lower lake went on line to help hold stripers closer to the dam during warm months. That device further improved water in the lower savannah. In the past 12 months TWO new recordbook fish - a striper landed by pro golfer Vaughn Taylor and a yellow perch landed just last month by Tom Lewis - have been caught in the Savannah. I suspect its fishing quality will continue to improve. The 1997 experiment placed 10,000 trout in the massively huge Savannah River and 3500 trout in the 7-mile canal. That is not enough fish to support a fishery. S.C. DNR has a fabulous trout fishery in the Saluda River near Columbia. It is about 8 miles - just slightly longer than the Augusta Canal - and DNR stocks 35,000 fish there each year, with great success, both for trophy and take-home fishing. South Carolina also stocks "catchable sized" fish 8 to 14 inches in the Saluda, as larger fish have a greater chance of survival than 3-inch fingerlings. I dont know if the canal would support a trout fishery, but there is no harm in exploring the opportunities.

Riverman1
86790
Points
Riverman1 03/31/13 - 11:18 am
3
0
I'm all for doing it too. Is

I'm all for doing it too. Is the reason the unnatural canal is being considered because of the decreased volume of water? While the aerators have helped the river in the Columbia County portion between Clarks Hill and the SC Power Co. dam at Stevens Creek, the river below that always had better oxygen content so I'm not sure oxygen content is the key. A couple of degrees can mean a great deal.

Concerning the river, my earlier comments about maintaining flow is because outflow from Clarks Hill is not a continuous one. It is stopped at times resulting in stagnant water. Remember the old raft race where the rafts wouldn't move and they had to beg the COE to release more water from the lake? With the canal that may not be as great of a problem.

reasonrules
5
Points
reasonrules 03/31/13 - 12:11 pm
1
0
Canal instead of the river

I'm guessing here......but Carl and his Davidson students are next to the canal 5 days a week in their classroom and they don't have to go far to check those numbers....a daily trip to the river would be time consuming. Augusta needs a quality water monitoring station on the river that checks oxygen levels, flow rates, ph, and temp. A trout fishery in the Savannah River would bring millions of dollars into our economy each year and provide many new business opportunuties for our residents. Great work Carl and students!!!

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 03/31/13 - 02:13 pm
1
0
The Davidson folks are doing everyone a favor..

We have real data accumulating that will help make decisions - and not only is the city not having to pay for it, but bright young students are learning from this experience. Bottom line though, as Riverman points out, is that temperature will make or break the idea.

Grasshopper
7
Points
Grasshopper 03/31/13 - 02:31 pm
1
0
I would like to see Walleye

I would like to see Walleye included in the study. Also, small mouth bass in the shoals.

nocnoc
44736
Points
nocnoc 03/31/13 - 02:39 pm
0
1
If they put them in the Canal

Say good bye to fishing there.
It will become a protected area and off limits for fishing.

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 03/31/13 - 05:13 pm
1
0
nocnoc, nothing would be off limits to fishing

the only reason to introduce trout would be to create a recreational fishery - no way would the canal be off limits to fishing. grasshopper, I'm not aware of walleye here - but we have a LOT of smallmouth in the shoals already. I've even been lucky enough to catch a few.

itsanotherday1
45283
Points
itsanotherday1 03/31/13 - 06:42 pm
1
0
Riverman

I would not bet you a cold beer on it; but I am pretty sure the COE says the river flow never goes under 3100CFS, since that is the required minimum flow to support downstream needs.

If they have the flexibility to shut it down completely, then why don't they when the lake is down and we've had torrential rains below the dam that maintain the required flow?

Riverman1
86790
Points
Riverman1 04/01/13 - 10:02 am
0
0
We All Want Water

IAD, understand I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who lives on the river. Although the guidelines say the flow shouldn't go below 3800 CFS even at 318 ft, it often is lowered. Today the lake is 324.07 so the flow should be 4000 CFS. Plus, the coordination with outflow from both Thurmond and Stevens Creek dams is important. The dams are not always releasing water. It depends on power generation times during the day. The river is a dynamic waterway with the wetness of the banks important for aquatic plant and animal life. It is not an aluminum gutter that flows to the ocean.

Here is an exerpt from an article Dr. Will Duncan, Aquatic Ecologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Dr. Duncan works on in-stream flow and habitat issues in the southeastern United States.

In regards to the lake being harmed by the drought, he points out problems with the river during this time.

"Reservoir recreational enthusiasts and homeowners prefer high reservoir levels. However, the Savannah River extends over 220 miles below Thurmond Dam. This portion of the river basin provides drinking water to Augusta and Savannah, habitat for plants and wildlife, water for power generation at Plant Vogtle, freshwater for ducks at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, and water for the disappearing freshwater marsh in the estuary. Because of [past] harbor deepening, diversions of large water volumes by the Augusta Canal, reservoir construction, increased water use, and discharge of wastewater, the amount of habitat for both rare and common aquatic plants and animals has dwindled. Smart management of the remaining habitat and wildlife is critical if these resources are to be maintained for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Impacts to aquatic plants and animals recently have been observed throughout the lower Savannah River during low flow releases from Thurmond Dam....One of the three remaining populations of the Shoals Spider-Lily has gone extinct. At several locations, mussels that filter and clean water have died. At times, the amount of oxygen in water has fallen to levels considered harmful to aquatic life. The amount of salt in the estuary has risen, frequently making it a challenge to provide freshwater habitat for ducks and other wetland birds."

I know this is lengthy, but the problem with decreasing outflow for rain is that the other areas along the course of the river may not be affected by the same rain.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs