Lower Saluda River Trout Study
Summary of First Year Study Results
Angler Tag Return Study
A total of 334 tag returns from 145 anglers were reported in the first year of the study. More than half of those tags were received in the first two months and only five tag returns were reported in the last five months. Many factors can influence the reduction in tag returns, but we believe part of the reason could be explained by the high rainfall and resultant high flows making access limited to only the boating public. In addition, the high rainfall may have resulted in a period of turbid discharge from Lake Murray that characterized the river in 2013 from September through November. However, taking weather into consideration, the early trend in tag returns still suggests a high mortality rate of rainbow trout in the first four months after stocking. Two more years of study will provide information to better understand the mortality rate.
Another interesting result from the first year was the majority of tag returns were from rainbow trout with 284 being rainbow trout and 50 being brown trout. It appears that rainbow trout are more easily caught than are the brown trout. Another result was 59 % of anglers reported they released the tagged trout while 41% reported they harvested the trout. Anglers used different techniques to catch the trout with 48% using spinning tackle, 41% fly fishing, and 11% still fishing with bait.
*Bill Clendenin, DNR State Geologist, showing fishing technique he used to catch four tagged trout.
Site-Specific Electro-fishing Study
Site-specific electro-fishing was conducted at nine locations for each of eight months starting December 2012 and ending in October 2013. A total of 566 trout including 300 brown trout and 266 rainbow trout were captured. Ninety-one carry/over trout (trout who have survived more than one after stocking) including 59 brown trout and 32 rainbow trout were captured. The largest brown trout was 23.6" and 6.8 lbs and the largest rainbow trout was 21.9" and 4.9 lbs. Captures by month remained fairly stable until August when the catch rate dropped from an average of 86 trout per month to 24 trout per month. This result correlates fairly well with the rate of tag returns. Catch rates from electrofishing also proved interesting. Dividing the river into four reaches with Reach 1 being nearest to Lake Murray and Reach 4 being the furthest from the Lake Murray, a reduction in catch per unit effort (CPUE) from 34 trout per hour to 4 trout per hour was observed. This is likely related to our focused stocking efforts in the upper two thirds of the river; although, it is also possible that habitat and predation could be a factor.
*Corley Island shoal is one of the fixed sites where electrofishing samples are obtained.
*Carry/Over Rainbow trout
The first year of the three-year creel survey was completed. The six hour creel was conducted for 12 days/month during peak trout fishing season and 10 days/month for the rest of the year. During the first year 129 creel surveys were conducted with 297 anglers interviewed. The majority of the anglers were from South Carolina with only a few from out of state including one from South Africa and one from France. The number of contacts peaked in May with good numbers of anglers targeting trout and/or striped bass. Of the anglers interviewed, trout were targeted by 61% with striped bass being the second most targeted at 31%. The numbers of trout landings were highest in the winter and spring months and dropped off through the summer and fall months. Angler access was predominantly by boat (61.6%) with bank fishing (20.7%) and wade fishing (17.3%) adding significant contributions. This predominance of boating anglers was likely influenced by high rainfall amounts that resulted in river flows generally considered unsafe for wade fishing.
Fish Community Study
The fish community study involves an inventory of the Lower Saluda River fish community with an emphasis on documenting species composition, abundance, distribution, and length/weight data. The objective of the study is to document fish community response to new flow and oxygen requirements at the Saluda Hydro-electric Project. The study is conducted by boat electrofishing at 5 locations during the spring, summer and fall for three years. During the first year of the study, 1,650 fish representing 40 different species were captured. Redbreast sunfish along with northern hogsucker were some of the most abundant species. The most common top predators were largemouth bass and chain pickerel. Striped bass were also abundant in the river from May through September.
*A common bottom feeding fish in the Lower Saluda River is the Northern hog sucker.