THE AGFC is urging anglers on Norfork Tailwater to minimize catch & handling stress on trout, particularly in low water, due to higher than normal water temperatures.
I know some of you are curious about what is going on at Norfork so I obtained some more detailed information from the Corps of Engineers.
Many of you have seen that the water is running around the sides of the gate (if not, see attached picture). The gate was blocked by the bulkhead to allow painting of the gate and rehab on the side and bottom seals. When the water came up in Lake Norfork, the work by the contractors was halted- this was outlined in their contract with the COE due to concerns for safety when the water got to a certain elevation. The side and bottom seals are off and could not be replaced in time to prevent leakage.
We (AGFC) went out and measure temperatures today (July 28). Temperatures throughout the river ranged from 60.2 F to 67.1 F (we took temperatures between the Dam and just upstream from the confluence). There were no signs of dead trout, but several anglers reported today that captured fish were stressed upon release. That is not unheard of when temperatures increase in the tailwaters. I urge you all to be aware of fish handling right now and try to reduce stress during capture as much as possible, especially if you plan to release the fish. The good news is that during generation, temperatures drop back down to the high 40s, providing adequate relief. If water gets any warmer, I will consider implementing a stocking restriction on Norfork until this situation has been resolved. I will let you know if we get to that point.
Because of the lake elevation in Bull Shoals right now, the COE is unable to give any channel capacity to Norfork above the daily minimum (firm power) [i.e., they cannot generate more than they are at this time]. Inflow into Norfork is close to outflow levels with the weekly rains they have had in southern Missouri. Therefore Norfork has continued to rise. However, it is 64% full, compared to 90% at Bull Shoals and 80% for the 3 lakes on the main stem White River.
Reservoir control in Little Rock will send a note to the Operator at Norfork and ask that they give special attention to Norfork conditions (i.e., asking that they closely watch and make sure that minimum flow continues to operate at all times during non-generation, whether that be from the siphon or speed-no-load). I assure you all that both the COE and ourselves are monitoring this situation closely.
Hope this clears up some of the speculation about what is going on. Let me know if you have any questions.
Trout Biologist Supervisor