Ogeechee fish plentiful, but fishermen still wary | savannahnow.com

13
Oct

Ogeechee fish plentiful, but fishermen still wary | savannahnow.com

On the Ogeechee River, this year’s sopping wet spring and summer helped fish populations rebound after the devastating fish kill of 2011, but not everyone is planning their fish fry yet.

Rain had the Ogeechee spilling out of its banks, giving small fish the chance to grow in swampy areas. As the river contracted, the expanded fish population has become trapped in the smaller area. It’s exactly what fisheries supervisor Tim Barrett expected with a break in a long dry spell.

“We saw lots of little fish through this dry time,” said Barrett, of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources. “We were saying if we get water we’ll have great fishing again.”

Wildlife Resources crews restocked the Ogeechee in late 2011 with about 275,000 redbreast, 100,000 largemouth bass and 150,000 bluegill, but Barrett credits the wet weather more than the restocking for the population increase.

Annual electrofishing studies of sport fish populations so far this year show five times more larger-sized redbreast sunfish in the river than last year, said senior fisheries biologist Joel Fleming. In the fish kill area, redbreast catches are about 1.3 times better than in 2010, before the May 2011 event that left 38,000 fish dead.

All the dead fish were discovered below the discharge pipe for textile processor King America Finishing. A follow-up investigation by the state’s Environmental Protection Division revealed the company’s fire retardant processing line had been operating without a pollution permit since its installation in 2006. After a brief interruption following the fish kill, the line was restarted; it continues to operate without a permit. The company is instead operating under directives from an August 2011 EPD letter. A consent order that spelled out $1 million the company was to spend in projects on the Ogeechee was nullified by a judge in 2012 for lack of public notice and a new consent order has not been finalized.

Both documents should be finalized soon, said EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers.

Fishermen like Bulloch resident Tommy Pope, who’s lived on the river for 29 years, are focused on the continuing discharge. He agrees it’s easy to catch fish now, but eating them is another matter.

via Ogeechee fish plentiful, but fishermen still wary | savannahnow.com.

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