by Scott Sadil
In another bit of startling news from the heat-beleagured West, the Nature Conservancy has announced that as of today, July 2, 2021, effective 9pm, its iconic Silver Creek Preserve will be closed to fishing until further notice.
According to a press release from Claire Cornell of the Nature Conservancy in Idaho, “These restrictions are necessary because dissolved oygen concentrations and stream temperatures remain at harmful levels for extended periods throughout the day. Low dissolved oxygen concentrations and elevated water temperatures can cause fish stress and mortality.”
The facts tell the story. Monitoring performed in the preserve by the Nature Conservancy have shown water temperatures at 73°F and dissolved oxygen levels of 3 mg/l. Temperatures in excess of 70°F and dissolved oxygen levels below 4 mg/l are considered dangerous to the trout in the preserve.
Heat waves come and go, yet this is the first time since establishing the Silver Creek Preserve in 1976 that the Nature Conservancy has closed the preserve to fishing. There’s more going on, of course, than just the effects of hot weather. Regional aquifer levels, depleted by development and irrigation needs in Idaho’s Wood River Valley, may no longer replenish Silver Creek at historic levels. Less spring-fed cold water in the preserve means the creek becomes more susceptible to the effects of severe summer weather.
As stewards of the preserve, the Nature Conservancy recognizes the challenges it faces. “The Nature Conservancy is actively focused on long-term solutions, such as stream channel restoration and aquifier recharge projects, that will improve habitat resiliency at Silver Creek in the event of signifivant heat waves and droughts like the ones we’re currently experiencing,” says Erika Phillips, Watershed Manager for the Nature Conservancy. “In our immediate situation with low flows and elevated water temperatures, we need to be proactive and responsible in our stewardship of the Preserve by taking these necessary steps to protect the health of the fish.”
Time will tell if these efforts prove sufficient for the weather ahead.
Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil is confident he’s in good company in revealing he’s been skunked more than once at Silver Creek.