"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Recreation Water
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

Anglers and other water users can blame the weatherman (lack of rain) and a leaky dam for the low water levels of Salamonie and Mississinewa reservoirs as spring turns to summer.
Other reservoirs of the state are at, or close, to summer pool levels as Memorial Day, the first big warm-weather holiday of the warm months, approaches. 
A lack of rain has kept Salamonie far below summer pool level (755 feet above sea level, a k a ASL). 
As well as I can determine, work on the Mississinewa dam will be completed in time for the reservoir to be at the old summer pool stage (737 ASL) before Memorial Day, 2005.
For many years Raccoon and Brookville reservoirs in the central part of the state, and the upper Wabash reservoirs (Huntington, Salamonie and Mississinewa) have been lowered to winter pool levels to make room for runoff of late-winter and early-spring rains.
These reservoirs have almost always offered plenty of recreation water when Memorial Day approached and on through the summer. In some years there has been so much water some facilities have had to be closed.
Although Salamonie is about nine feet below summer pool now, and Mississinewa is roughly 20 feet below the 737 (feet above sea level) stage, folks enjoyed there for many years, the other reservoirs are close to summer pool levels.
All recreational facilities are open at Salamonie except the beach and marina. Boat ramps are open, but "courtesy docks," where boaters can tie up temporarily, are not in place.
Beach and marina facilities are not open at Mississinewa now, but boat ramps at Red Bridge, Miami and Frances Slocum recreation areas (all west of State Highway13) are open. The primitive campground is closed, but other campgrounds are open.
Those who recreate--especially anglers and those involved in other water-related activities--have had some lean years since Mississinewa was lowered in 1999 for work on the leaky dam.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel and it could be a spotlight on a brand new hot sport fishery in the next few years.
There are those who maintain that seeing is believing, but Bill James, chief of the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) Fisheries Section, and Ed Braun, District Four fisheries biologist, say the scenario could translate into something akin to the angling found at most new reservoirs.
They say lower water levels for more than four years have brought about the emergence of many forms of plants--even great stands of willows.
When this vegetation is covered with water, it will die and decompose. This translates into a surplus of food for aquatic species.
James says there are no plans now to do a lot of restocking, but adds that Braun will keep a critical eye on fish populations. If some species need to be boosted, stocking is a possibility, James said.
Another facet of the future angling picture at Mississinewa revolves around an agreement between the Corps of Engineers and the DFW that was a couple of years old when the reservoir had to be lowered for repair of the dam.
Mississinewa, one of Indiana's "high discharge" reservoirs, for many years had been lowered to 712 feet ASL each fall. Biologist feared this was sending many of the fish in the reservoir down the Mississinewa River.
James says the Corps of Engineers agreed to raise the winter pool to 717 feet ASL and that by 1999 the higher winter water level seemed to be improving the fishery, especially among crappies and bass.
James says the Corps has agreed to continue that plan.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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